Set out by federal statute 15 U.S.C. 1051, it is the primary list on which trademarks that meet certain federal filing standards are placed. To have a trademark placed on the principal register, the owner must pay a fee and file their application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The application must include where the applicant lives and what their citizenship is, “the date of the applicant’s first use of the mark, the date of the applicant’s first use of the mark in commerce, the goods in connection with which the mark is used, and a drawing of the mark.” 15 U.S.C. 1051(a)(2). Additionally, to be placed on the principal register, the applicant must show that they are the owner, that the mark is used in commerce, that no other person has a right to use such mark, or one closely resembling the mark in question, in commerce which might cause confusion, mistake, or deception between the marks. 15 U.S.C. 1051(a)(3). Furthermore, the applicant must also verify that, to the best of their knowledge, all the information is accurate.
The benefits of getting a mark placed on the Principal Register include the notice to potential copiers that your mark is valid and protected, the right to sue to stop copying, and the right to have the mark considered immune from legal challenge after five years of continuous use.
Some marks that do not qualify for the principal register may be eligible for application with the supplemental register.
[Last updated in September of 2020 by the Wex Definitions Team]