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Detroit, Michigan Trademark Attorneys: The Supplemental vs. The Principal Federal Trademark Registers
The Principal Trademark Register is the home of trademarks approved for full registration by the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Registration on the Principal Register is what most people think of when they hear the term “registered trademark.”
Registration on the Principal Register confers a variety of benefits upon a trademark, including presumption of ownership, presumption of validity, the exclusive right to use the mark in commerce, the right to use the ® symbol in connection with the mark in advertisements and on packaging, the right to sue for infringement, the right register the mark internationally, and, generally—protection.
The Supplemental Register offers some—but not all—of these protections.
What is it, and how does a mark end up registered upon it?
What Is the Supplemental Register of Trademarks?
The Supplemental Register is a sort of “holding cell” for trademarks that lack the distinctiveness required to uniquely and specifically identify their owners as the source of the goods or service with which the mark is associated.
First, it is important to note that, unlike copyright or patent protection, trademark protection does not exist to protect the “creative work” of the owner. It exists to protect consumers from confusing the source of good or service for sale in interstate (across state lines) commerce with another source.
In other words, trademark protection exists to ensure that, when you buy what looks like a can of Coke, it comes from the Coca Cola Corporation and not some knock-off manufacturer.
An application for trademark registration, therefore, must prove that the proposed name, logo, or tag-line distinctly and uniquely identifies that product or service with which it is associated.
The Supplemental Register exists as a landing-pad for marks which the USPTO deems not quite distinctive enough for the Principal Register but which are otherwise registrable.
If the Attorney Examiner assigned to your trademark registration application by the USPTO deems your mark registrable but not sufficiently unique, the application may be approved—but to the Supplemental Register.
Does the Supplemental Register Provide Any Trademark Protection?
The Supplemental Register provides significant protection beyond the alternative: no registration at all.
Registration on the Supplemental Register does mean that your mark is registered.
You have the right to use the ® symbol.
You retain the right to sue for infringement of your mark.
You retain the right to file an application for registration in a foreign country pursuant to the Madrid Protocol treaty (which requires registration in the US first).
Further and most importantly, should your enterprise and your use of the mark progress to the point where it has, in the minds of consumers, acquired the distinctiveness necessary to uniquely identify you as the source of your product or service, you can apply to move the registration to the Principal Register.
What Benefits Does the Supplemental Register Fail to Provide?
The Supplemental Register does not provide a mark’s owner with the ability to engage in the further benefits of the Principal Register, namely, the overall ability to police the use of similar marks utilizing some mechanisms available within the framework of the US Trademark Act.
Specifically, a Supplemental Registrant cannot file opposition proceedings against other mark registration applications, mark cancellation proceedings, interference proceedings, and other adversary mechanisms otherwise available.
A Supplemental Registration must be content to co-exist with other registered marks until it can prove acquired distinctiveness.
Trademark Registration & The Supplemental Register: A Bottom Line
The bottom line is that trademark registration is much more than mere “form-filling” and retainer of a knowledgeable trademark attorney to draft, file, and argue your application will increase your odds of successful approval.
The Hilla Law Firm, PLLC offers free virtual consultations or virtually to trademark clients throughout the United States.
If you are interested in discussing the filing of an initial trademark application or defending an office action already filed, please contact us at (734) 743-1489 to discuss your matter or click here to directly schedule your initial trademark consultation into our calendaring system.