What are the Differences between Principal Registration, Supplemental Registration and Common Law?

Rights and Protection. A Principal Registration give the most rights, which may be especially important if you dealing with a good or goods that may be subject to counterfeiting. Only trademarks on the Principal Register may be recorded with U.S. Customs for protection.

A registration on the Supplemental Register may be viewed as a weak mark and may be subject to less protection under the law. But a Supplemental Registration may be better than no registration at all, even a Supplemental Registration can be used by a trademark examiner to refuse later-filed applications with a likelihood of confusion.

Trying to stop someone from using your unregistered mark can be very difficult, unregistered marks are very difficult to enforce. A registered mark can be used against conflicting marks over and over by trademark examiners to stop the registration of new marks with a likelihood of confusion. Opposing or Cancelling or suing users with conflicting marks one by one is very expensive. A lot of presumptive rights come with a Principal Registration.

How do you know if a mark is registered on the Supplemental Register? How do I search the Supplemental Register? On the Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS) at http://tess2.uspto.gov,  a user can search on the Structured or Free Form search to find marks on the Supplemental Register. The field Register on the Structured search or [RG] on the Free Form Search identifies this field. This field identifies the mark as being either on the Principal Register (PRINCIPAL), the Principal Register with a Section 2(f) claim of acquired distinctiveness in part or in whole (PRINCIPAL-2(F)-IN PART, PRINCIPAL-2(F), or the Supplemental Register (SUPPLEMENTAL).

For a Free Form search or Structured search: The search PRINCIPAL[RG] retrieves only occurrences of PRINCIPAL. The search PRINCIPAL-2[RG] AND PART[RG] retrieves only occurrences of PRINCIPAL-2(F)-IN PART. The search PRINCIPAL-2[RG] NOT PART[RG] retrieves only occurrences of PRINCIPAL-2(F). The search SUPPLEMENTAL[RG] retrieves only occurrences of (d) SUPPLEMENTAL. This field applies only to Registered marks.

Note: Trademarks that are registered under Section 2(f) (or -2(F)) are marks that claim acquired distinctiveness in order to register on the Principal Register. See merelydescriptive.com for more information.

Comparison of Principal Register, Supplemental Register, and Common Law Trademark Rights

(Advantages of Federal Registration)

Trademark Rights

Principal Register

Supplemental Register

Common Law

Bring infringement suit in federal court based on the federal registration




Can be used by trademark examiner against future applications of confusing similar marks




Mark is easy to find for search reports




Owner can use ® to symbolize federal registration




Incontestability of mark after 5 years




Statutory presumption of validity




Statutory presumption of ownership




Statutory presumption of distinctiveness or inherently distinctive




Statutory presumption of exclusive right to use the mark in commerce




Can be recorded with US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to prevent importation of infringing goods




Ability to bring federal criminal charges against traffickers in counterfeits




Use of the U.S. registration as a basis to obtain registration in foreign countries





To verify a potential trademark is strong, is available to use, and is ready to register, the process should be more than a direct hit federal search. To maximize the commercial strength and minimize the weaknesses of a trademark, we start with these five steps:

1) Verify Inherent Strength (this avoids merely descriptive, geographically descriptive, likelihood of confusion and other office actions),

2) Verify Right to Use, (this avoids likelihood of confusion refusal office actions and others)

3) Verify Right to Register, (this avoids many types of refusals including merely descriptive, deceptively misdescriptive, geographically descriptive and others that can often be predicted)

 4) Verify the potential mark (as currently used) Functions As A Mark, and (this avoids specimen refusals, trade name refusals, and others. The USPTO is looking for valid use not just any use of a mark.)

5) Verify that the Goods and Services ID is both the correct and the maximum claim that are user can make and verify that the Goods and Services ID meets USPTO requirements before filing. (This avoids office actions to correct incorrect IDs  which can slow down a registration. Incorrect IDs  may be corrected during the prosecution of a trademark if they do not materially alter the mark or the ID. Correcting problems before application saves time and money. Filing in a new class after an application has been submitted to cure a problem ID is the same price as a new application in that class.)

*We don’t stop here but this is a good start!

Call us at (651) 500-7590 for a Strong Trademark. A Strong Trademark is Not Just a tool to increase sales to customers–it is also easier to sell to your investors & licensees.

Not Just Patents ® is a registered trademark of Not Just Patents LLC with a USPTO Federal Trademark Registration (R/N 3556868-service mark for Legal Services).

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PO Box 18716, Minneapolis, MN 55418  



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Call 1-651-500-7590 or email WP@NJP.legal for Responses to Office Actions; File or Defend an Opposition or Cancellation; Trademark Searches and Applications; Send or Respond to Cease and Desist Letters.

For more information from Not Just Patents, see our other sites:      

Steps to a Patent    How to Patent An Invention

Should I Get A Trademark or Patent?

Trademark e Search    Strong Trademark     Enforcing Trade Names

Common Law Trademarks  Trademark Goodwill   Abandoned Trademarks

Patentability Evaluation

Chart of Patent vs. Trade Secret

Patent or Trademark Assignments

Trademark Disclaimers   Trademark Dilution     TSDR Status Descriptors

Oppose or Cancel? Examples of Disclaimers  Business Name Cease and Desist

Sample Patent, Trademark & Copyright Inventory Forms

Verify a Trademark  Be First To File    How to Trademark Search

Are You a Content Provider-How to Pick an ID  Specimens: webpages

How to Keep A Trade Secret

State & Federal Trade Secret Laws

Using Slogans (Taglines), Model Numbers as Trademarks

Which format? When Should I  Use Standard Characters?

Shop Rights  What is a Small or Micro Entity?

Patent Drawings

Opposition Pleadings    UDRP Elements    

Oppositions-The Underdog    Misc Changes to TTAB Rules 2017

How To Answer A Trademark Cease and Desist Letter

Converting Provisional to Nonprovisional Patent Application (or claiming benefit of)

Trademark Refusals    Does not Function as a Mark Refusals

How to Respond to Office Actions

What is a Compact Patent Prosecution?

Acceptable Specimen       Supplemental Register   $199 Statement of Use

How To Show Acquired Distinctiveness Under 2(f)

Patent search-New invention

Patent Search-Non-Obvious

Trademark Attorney for Overcoming Office Actions Functional Trademarks   How to Trademark     

What Does ‘Use in Commerce’ Mean?    

Grounds for Opposition & Cancellation     Cease and Desist Letter

Trademark Incontestability  TTAB Manual (TBMP)

Valid/Invalid Use of Trademarks     Trademark Searching

TTAB/TBMP Discovery Conferences & Stipulations

TBMP 113 Service of TTAB Documents  TBMP 309 Standing

Examples and General Rules for Likelihood of Confusion

USPTO Search Method for Likelihood of Confusion

Examples of Refusals for Likelihood of Confusion   DuPont Factors

What are Dead or Abandoned Trademarks?

 Can I Use An Abandoned Trademark?

Color as Trade Dress  3D Marks as Trade Dress  

Can I Abandon a Trademark During An Opposition?

Differences between TEAS and TEAS plus  

How do I Know If Someone Has Filed for An Extension of Time to Oppose?

Ornamental Refusal  Standard TTAB Protective Order

SCAM Letters Surname Refusal

What Does Published for Opposition Mean?

What to Discuss in the Discovery Conference

Descriptive Trademarks Trademark2e.com  

Likelihood of Confusion 2d

Acquired Distinctiveness  2(f) or 2(f) in part

Merely Descriptive Trademarks  

Merely Descriptive Refusals

ID of Goods and Services see also Headings (list) of International Trademark Classes

Register a Trademark-Step by Step  

Protect Business Goodwill Extension of Time to Oppose

Geographically Descriptive or Deceptive

Change of Address with the TTAB using ESTTA

Likelihood of confusion-Circuit Court tests

Pseudo Marks    How to Reply to Cease and Desist Letter

Not Just Patents Often Represents the Underdog

 Overcome Merely Descriptive Refusal   Overcome Likelihood Confusion

Protecting Trademark Rights (Common Law)

Steps in a Trademark Opposition Process   

Section 2(d) Refusals   FilingforTrademark.com

Zombie Trademark  

What is the Difference between Principal & Supplemental Register?

Typical Brand Name Refusals  What is a Family of Marks? What If Someone Files An Opposition Against My Trademark?

How to Respond Office Actions  

DIY Overcoming Descriptive Refusals

Trademark Steps Trademark Registration Answers TESS  

Trademark Searching Using TESS  Trademark Search Tips

Trademark Clearance Search   DIY Trademark Strategies

Published for Opposition     What is Discoverable in a TTAB Proceeding?

Counterclaims and Affirmative Defenses

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