Registry To Protect Tribal Logos
The Patent and Trademark Office is asking for wider tribal participation in a comprehensive federal database of tribal insignias and logos, a system that will help detect trademark applications that could create “false associations“ between various commercial products and services and Native American tribes.
The database of tribal insignias is designed to be an informational tool for agency examiners who must determine whether any trademark application would be confusingly similar to that of any existing U.S. tribe. This legislation , sponsored by Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M. was prompted by the indiscriminate use of the Zia sun symbol. Considered to be sacred to the New Mexico based Zia Pueblo Tribe on such things as the New Mexico state flag, state roads signs, license plates and other commercial ventures.
“A comprehensive database of official insignias of federally and state recognized tribes will help the Patent and Trademark agency avoid registering these official insignias,” says Jon Dudas, deputy undersecretary for the office. Dudas likened the misappropriations of tribal insignia to someone registering a logo similar to that of a prestigious university when that party has no connection to the school.
It’s also a matter of pride and respect according to Zia Pueblo Gov. Gilberto Lucero. “We’re proud and we want to share but for gosh sakes, acknowledge who it belongs to and get permission to use it. And if you use the symbol, tell the story of where you got it and teach people what it means.” The state of New Mexico has agreed to do that.
The PTO agency database is limited to official tribal insignias and logos and must be a flag or coat of arms of other emblem or device but not words or letters.
In addition to the Zia Pueblo, other tribes that already have entered their insignias are the California-based Redding Rancheria Wintu Yama Pit River; the Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape Indians of New Jersey; the Peoria Tribe of Indians of Oklahoma; the Quinault Indian Nation of Washington; the Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Tribe of Indians in Oregon; the Seneca-Cayuga Tribe of Oklahoma; and the Georgia Tribe of Eastern Cherokee.
This story was edited from the pages of The Arizona Republic bylined Billy House, Washington Bureau.