While most countries have only a principal trademark registry, the US is unique with a supplemental registry as well.

The main reason trademarks land on the supplemental registry is that the USTPO finds your trademark is descriptive, merely describing a specific feature or characteristic. 

Unless you can convince the examiner otherwise, they may agree to place it on the supplemental register but not the principal register.


Supplemental Register Benefits

A supplemental registration is far better than no trademark. You can still use the circle R, and. 99.9% of people will not realize it is in the supplemental register.

Additionally, it allows you to bring suit in federal court instead of individually protecting your brand in state courts. As with the principal register, supplemental registration prevents other parties from registering the same mark. 

You may also use your supplemental registration to file foreign applications, which is critical if you want to do business outside the US.

Finally, there are no formal opposition proceedings for trademarks that are on a supplemental register.

The Downside

However, a supplemental registration does not create a presumption of ownership and validity. When presenting your trademark certificate to a judge, they presume you own that trademark and that it is valid. With a supplemental registration, you need to prove your ownership and the validity of your trademark.

A supplemental mark does not permit you to use border measures that allow you to request that goods bearing your trademark be blocked from import to protect your brand.

After a certain period, a registered trademark becomes incontestable, meaning someone with an unregistered trademark who may have a prior right to yours can no longer make that claim. 

Trademarks on the supplemental register can never become incontestable. You will always have that exposure. Decades later, even if they didn’t claim it as a trademark, if somebody has a prior right, they can still take the trademark away from you if they can prove they were there first.


In summary, getting your trademark accepted to the principal register is best. But if you get an objection saying your trademark is descriptive and can’t convince the examiner otherwise, it might be wise to accept their offer of supplemental registration.

Build some goodwill around your business and brand so you can file a new application for the principal register and claim acquired distinctiveness; your trademark is no longer merely descriptive because so many people are aware of you under that brand.

A trademark on the supplemental register is there forever. You must file a new application to move it to the principal register.


Disclaimer: Please note that this post and this video are not and are not intended as legal advice. Your situation may be different from the facts assumed in this post or video. Your reading this post or watching this video does not create a lawyer-client relationship between you and Trademark Factory International Inc., and you should not rely on this post or this video as the only source of information to make important decisions about your intellectual property.