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The Supplemental Register is used by those seeking registration for a mark considered too descriptive for the Principal Register. Once the mark has acquired sufficient distinctiveness through use (at least 5 years) it can then be transferred to the Principal Register. An applicant cannot file an “intent to use” application to register a trademark on the supplemental register.

Marks registered on the Supplemental Register lack some benefits obtained by registration on the Principal Register, for instance:

  • there’s no resulting constructive notice of a registrant’s ownership claim;
  • registration is not prima facie evidence, by itself, of exclusive right to use the mark;
  • registration does not become incontestable in 5 years; and
  • U.S. Customs & Border Protection will not stop the importation of infringing goods.

Marks registered on the Supplemental Register have many benefits, including:

  • use of the federal trademark registration symbol ®;
  • is a bar to registration of a later filed application if the mark & goods are confusingly similar;
  • serves as the basis for an international application based on U.S. rights;
  • immunity from opposition challenges during the registration process (but are subject to cancellation petitions by any person who claims to be damaged by the registration); and
  • the registrant can bring a suit for infringement (& claims of unfair competition) in federal (rather than state) court, and ownership & infringement issues are governed by federal (rather than state) law.

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