TMEP 1204.02(d): Case Law Interpreting Insignia Under §2(b)

This is the October 2015 Edition of the TMEP

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1204.02(d)    Case Law Interpreting Insignia Under §2(b)

The following cases provide examples of matter that was held not to be government insignia under §2(b):

  • (1) Department insignia that shows a service or facility of a federal department are not refused registration under §2(b). See In re United States Dep't of the Interior, 142 USPQ 506, 507 (TTAB 1964) (finding insignia of the National Park Service registrable).
  • (2) Monuments, statues, or buildings associated with the United States such as the White House, Washington Monument, and Statue of Liberty, are not refused registration under §2(b). See Liberty Mut. Ins. Co. v. Liberty Ins. Co. of Texas, 185 F. Supp. 895, 908, 127 USPQ 312, 323 (E.D. Ark. 1960) ("That the Statue of Liberty is not a part of the ‘insignia of the United States’ is too clear to require discussion.").
  • (3) Designs of objects used by the U.S. government are not refused registration under §2(b). See In re Brumberger Co., Inc., 200 USPQ 475 (TTAB 1978) (finding representation of the U.S. mailbox was not to be an insignia of the United States. However, the Board affirmed a refusal to register the mark under §2(a) because of a false connection with the United States Postal Service).
  • (4) Initials or words that identify people or departments of a government agency. Letters that merely identify people and things associated with a particular agency or department of the United States government, instead of representing the authority of the government or the nation as a whole, are generally not considered to be “insignia of the United States” within the meaning of §2(b). See U.S. Navy v. United States Mfg. Co., 2 USPQ2d 1254 (TTAB 1987) (finding USMC, the initials of the Marine Corps, which is part of the Navy, which itself is within the Department of Defense, cannot be construed as an “other insignia of the United States” under §2(b) of the Lanham Act). Note: As a result of the enactment of Public Law 98 525 on October 19, 1984, the initials, seal, and emblem of the United States Marine Corps are “deemed to be insignia of the United States,” under 10 U.S.C. §7881, pertaining to unauthorized use of Marine Corps insignia. However, “USMC” was not so protected when the applicant began using its stylized version of those letters as a mark. In view of the provision in Public Law 98-525 that the amendments adding Chapter 663 (10 U.S.C. §7881) shall not affect rights that vested before the date of its enactment, the majority of the Board found that enactment of the law did not adversely affect the mark’s registrability, stating that “opposer has not shown that applicant’s mark was an insignia of the United States prior to the law making it one, or that the law effectively bars registration to applicant.” Id. at 1260.