What is the difference between the Supplemental Register and the Primary Register for Trademarks?

What is the difference between the Supplemental Register and the Primary Register for Trademarks?

A trademark is a symbol that a manufacture uses to distinguish its goods to consumers.  Trademark holders are granted the right to exude others from placing the trademark on goods not produced by the trademark holder.  The motivation behind trademark law is to protect consumers, not to reward producers.  Trademark law is intended to prevent consumer confusion and protect consumers from inferior quality products.  Protection for a trademark begins merely by using a trademark in commerce.  Registering a trademark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office will grant the owner of a trademark additional rights.  When a trademark is successfully registered with the Untied States Patent and Trademark Office, the trademark is placed on either the principal register of the supplemental register.

What is the difference between a trademark which is registered on the supplemental register and a trademark registered on the primary register?

The Principal Register is for trademarks that are distinctive, either because the trademark has unique characteristics or because the trademark has been used for a long time. A trademark which is not being used in commerce yet can be placed on the principal register. Before a trademark is granted registration on the principal register, the trademark is published by the United States Patent and Trademark Office so that the public has the opportunity to object to the registration of the trademark.  Registration on the Principal Register provides the trademark owner with a number of additional rights, the presumption of the validity of the mark, prima facie evidence of ownership of the mark and acknowledgment of its continuous and exclusive use.  After five years of continuous, uninterrupted use from the date of registration, a trademark on the principal register can be granted incontestable status.

The Supplemental Register is for trademarks that are descriptive.  Only trademarks that are currently in use in commerce may be registered on the supplemental register.  Trademarks placed on the supplemental register are not published for opposition.  Registration on the Supplemental Register grants a trademark the following benefits: the trademark will appear in trademark searches, the trademark owner can bring suit in United States federal court and that the trademark owner can use the ® symbol, and other indicia of registration, in connection with the mark.  Trademarks on the Supplemental Register cannot be made incontestable.  It should also be noted that if a trademark is determined to be distinctive, it will not be allowed on the Supplemental Register.

Some might look at the benefits of the Supplemental Register and think that it is a waste of time and money.  That is not true.  The trademarks placed on the supplemental register are valuable.  Registration on the supplemental register will act as a place holder and prevent other people from registering the trademark.  In time the trademark owner can gather evidence of distinctiveness and have the trademark placed on the Principal Register.

Trademark applications are complicated.  It is best to consult with an experienced trademark attorney to determine the best strategy for your trademark.

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