TMEP 1205.03: Native American Tribal Insignia

October 2017 Edition of the TMEP

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1205.03    Native American Tribal Insignia

Various federally and state-recognized Native American tribes have identified a particular insignia as their official tribal insignia. When a federally or state-recognized Native American tribe submits its official insignia to the USPTO, it is assigned a serial number in the "89" series code (i.e., serial numbers beginning with the digits "89," sometimes referred to as "non-registrations") and entered into the USPTO search records to assist examining attorneys and applicants. There is no legal requirement to submit such an insignia to the USPTO. Therefore, the search records include only the insignia of federally and state-recognized Native American tribes that choose to submit their insignia.

When the USPTO receives a request to enter an insignia, the USPTO complies if the request is made by a federally or state-recognized Native American tribe and includes certain required information. The USPTO does not investigate whether the insignia truly is the official insignia of the tribe.

Inclusion of the insignia in the search records aids in the examination of applications for trademark registration. Section 2(a) of the Trademark Act, 15 U.S.C. §1052(a), disallows the registration of marks that falsely suggest a connection with a non-sponsoring person or institution, including a Native American tribe. See In re Shinnecock Smoke Shop 571 F. 3d 1171, 91 USPQ 2d 1218 (Fed. Cir. 2009); In re White, 73 USPQ2d 1713 (TTAB 2004). Thus, if a mark that a party wishes to register as a trademark resembles an insignia of a Native American tribe, it may falsely suggest a connection with the tribe.