Trademark Blog

Can I Register a Trademark for a Flag or Other National Symbol?

Trademark flag national symbol

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Trademark Registration: Flags, Coats of Arms, and other Insignia Not Eligible

The registration of a trademark for a flag, coat of arms or other "insignia" of the United States, any State or municipality, or of any foreign nation, is explicitly prohibited by Section 1052 of the Lanham Act ("the Trademark Act"). 

This is one of a handful blanket prohibitions contained in the Lanham Act, and it is a relatively simple one to understand. The purpose of a trademark registration is to identify the unique source of a good or service sold in interstate commerce to the consuming public. 

The "good" identified by a flag is the United States, a state, municipality, or foreign nation or state. It is not something that is therefore either unique or "for sale in interstate commerce." 

A national identity (or state or municipal, etc.) belongs to all members of that nation, state, or municipality. It cannot serve the purpose of a Federal trademark registration. 

The statutory prohibition even extends to the governmental body in question itself. The fact that, say, the United States government itself may be the one filing an application for a trademark registration incorporating a U.S. flag makes no difference. 

Trademark Registration: "Simulations" of Flags, Coats of Arms, and Other Insignia Also Prohibited

Not only are the flags and insignia prohibited, "simulations" of these things will also be refused by the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) with which applications are trademark registration are filed. 

What is a "simulation" of a flag? 

A "simulation" of a flag is any design that might be perceived as a flag by the public.

The USPTO will examine whether a design's color, presentation, words or other designs on the mark, and the use of mark on the specimens provided by the applicant would tend to have this effect upon the public. 

What this generally means is that an application will be refused if it contains a representation of a flag, features of a flag, or other unmistakable identifiers of a particular flag.

Black-and-white designs will of otherwise colorful flags will not avoid the prohibition, but the simple use of a standard geometrical shapes (stars, stripes, etc.) will not fall into the prohibition. 

Likewise, marks containing mere elements of flags that are in different colors than the flag in question, in different shapes, substantially obscured or altered by words or designs, or used to form a design or letter are not necessarily refused. 

Trademark Registration: Other National Symbols

A "national symbol" is also not necessarily prohibited. 

These symbols are those that possess special significance because, as defined in case-law, their "meaning, appearance, and/or sound ... immediately suggests or refers to the country for which it stands." 

They are symbols that are not "on par" with a flag or coat of arms. Some examples are the bald eagle, the Statue of Liberty, and so forth. 

The rule here is that such symbols may be utilized in a registrable mark so long as they do not falsely suggest a connection with the governmental entity in question. 

Again, the point of a trademark registration is to uniquely identify the source of a good or product sold across state lines to consumers. Even without the governmental connection, any "false suggestion" or confusion as to source will always tank any trademark registration application. 

Trademark Registration of Flags, Coats of Arms, and National Insignia: The Bottom Line

The bottom line is that with regard to trademark protection of your name or log, it doesn't pay to go cheap after investing all of your resources and time into the development of the product itself. 

Retain a trademark attorney such as Attorney John Hilla to assist you with your search and your application to ensure the best results. 

Attorney Hilla's trademark practice is national, and he represents clients for trademark matters anywhere in the United States and beyond. 

Contact Us Here to schedule an initial consultation appointment at no charge to discuss your trademark needs. 

Trademark Registration Attorney: What Is a Letter of Protest?

Michigan Trademark Attorney: A Letter of Protest is a low-expense method of providing evidence that a trademark registration application that has been filed by a 3rd party may not be registrable to the USPTO. Contact The Hilla Law Firm PLLC at (734) 743-1489 to discuss your trademark issue. Virtual consultations.

Trademark Registration Fees Increasing January 2, 2021

Federal trademark registration fees will increase across the board on January 2, 2021. If you are considering applying for registration of your business or product name or logo, contact The Hilla Law Firm now to apply now! (734) 743-1489 - Affordable flat fees - Virtual consultations - Nationwide service

Who Must Sign a Trademark Registration Application?

A Federal trademark application contains a verified statement of facts requiring signature by individual or corporate officer with firsthand knowledge. In other areas, the owner's trademark attorney must sign as representative. The Hilla Law Firm (734) 743-1489

Can I Use An Abandoned Trademark?

Michigan Trademark Attorney - The fact that a Federal trademark registration has been abandoned or is listed as dead in the USPTO TESS database does not necessarily mean it is available for your use. Contact The Hilla Law Firm at (734) 743-1489 to discuss your trademark registration. Affordable flat fees, virtual consultations.

Detroit Trademark Attorneys: Can I Use a Celebrity Name In My Trademark?

Detroit Trademark Attorneys - You cannot use a celebrity's name or image in your proposed trademark without that celebrity's express authorization. The USPTO trademark application form requires it—and the celebrity owns his or her own "right of publicity." Contact The Hilla Law Firm at (734) 743-1489 to discuss your trademark application. Affordable flat fees and virtual consultations.

Trademark Attorney: What Is the Difference Between Trademark and Patent and Copyright Law?

The key difference between trademark, copyright, and patent law is in the subject-matter of the Federal protection involved. Federal Patent and Copyright Registration protects the design or work of the creator whereas a Trademark Registration protects consumers' right to know what they are buying and from whom. The Hilla Law Firm represents Trademark clients across the US. Call now to schedule a free, virtual Trademark Registration consultation: (734) 743-1489.
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