Principal Vs Supplemental Trademark Registration

Small Business

Spoiler Alert: Principal is the Preference

When it comes to registering your trademark, not all forms or registration are created equal.  


When you register your trademark you will fall into either the principal registrar or the supplemental registrar.


By the sounds of the name, you can assume that one registrar is better than the other. When filing with the USPTO, your goal is to have your trademark end up on the principal registrar.


The principal registrar provides your trademark the greatest amount of protection under the law.


Sometimes filings end up on the supplemental registrar instead because their trademark is too descriptive, geographical in nature, or not unique enough.


The biggest benefit of being on the principal registrar versus the supplemental one is that you have a presumption of incontestability on your side after using the trademark for seven years.


If there was an infringement dispute, whoever does not own the registration mark carries the burden to prove that infringement does in fact exists.


Supplemental Registrar

When on the supplemental registrar, that sort of presumption does not exist under the law. Instead, your trademark protection is most similar to those under common law rights.


The benefit of being on the supplemental registrar rather than settling for common law protection is that you are able to sue in a federal court if your intellectual property is infringed upon. With a supplemental registration, the same sorts of legal remedies are available to your business in federal court as if you had a principal registration.


Having some registration is better than having none at all.


Another good thing about having your trademark on the principal registrar is that there is constructive notice (a formal legal announcement) to everyone else that the trademark belongs to your business. Should there ever be a conflict surrounding the ownership of your trademark, being registered will help you win that battle.


Don’t Common Law It

As heavily as we recommend filing your trademark application with the USPTO, there will always be those who decide to try and fly under the radar.


Through common law your brand is somewhat protected from infringement but you do not have full protection. If you had your brand created first but someone else registered their business formally, you may lose your trademark.


You do not have the same legal remedies as someone with a formal registration.


The bottom line is that if you’ve created something of value and you’d like to protect it, formally register it with the US Patent and Trademark office. Consult an expert before filing and do all your research to make sure your trademark ends up on the principal registrar.



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