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Native American Tribal Insignia Database

The USPTO has established a database to record the official insignia of federally and state-recognized Native American tribes.  This database is available at the USPTO's web site, as part of the Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS).

Frequently Asked Questions About the Database of Native American Tribal Insignia

1. What is the Database of Native American Tribal Insignia? 

A database that features insignia that various federally and state recognized Native American tribes have identified as their official tribal insignia.

2. Where can the database be found? 

The database is a component of a larger database maintained by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) that is known as the Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS).

3. If the Database of Native American Tribal Insignia is a component of a large database, how can I search for the entries that make up the insignia database? 

By following these simple steps:

    a. Go to “Free Form Search” on the TESS database 

    b. Enter the following search strategy, including quotation marks: “Native American Tribal Insignia”[od]

4. Is the Database of Native American Tribal Insignia a comprehensive listing of all insignia of all federally and state recognized Native American tribes? 

No.  There is no legal requirement to submit an insignia to the USPTO for inclusion in the database.  Therefore, the database includes only the insignia of federally and state recognized Native American tribes that choose to submit their insignia.

5. How can a federally or state recognized Native American Tribe arrange for its official insignia to be entered in the database? 

a) By submitting the following to the USPTO:

    i) A written request to enter the insignia; 

    ii) A depiction of the insignia that: 

        (1) is not larger than 4x4;

        (2) is placed at or near the center of 8.5x11 paper;

        (3) includes headings bearing name of the tribe and the address for correspondence.

    iii) A copy of tribal resolution adopting the insignia as official one; 

    iv) A statement, signed by an official with authority to bind the tribe, confirming that the insignia submitted is the one referred to in the resolution; 

    v) For tribes recognized only by a state government: 

        (1) Each of the items described above; and either; 

            (a) A document from a state official showing that the state recognizes group as a tribe, or;

            (b) A citation to a state statute designating the entity as a tribe.

b) These materials should be sent to the following address:

        Native American Tribal Insignia

        ATTN: Commissioner for Trademarks

        600 Dulany Street

        MDE-10A71

        Alexandria, VA 22314-5793 

Alternatively, the materials may be faxed to 571-273-8950.  There is no form available to enter official insignia in the database.  

6. The database is maintained by the USPTO. Does that mean that the database is an alternative or substitute register of trademarks? 

No.  The database is a collection of insignia, not of trademarks. By arranging for its official insignia to be entered in the database, a Native American Tribe does not gain any of the benefits that result from registration of a trademark. (Further information about trademark registration is provided in booklet entitled Basic Facts About Trademarks).

7. When the USPTO enters an insignia in the database, does it first make an official determination that the insignia is the official insignia of the Native American tribe that made the submission? 

No.  When it receives a request to enter an insignia into the database, the USPTO does not investigate whether the insignia is actually the official insignia of the tribe that made the submission.  Instead, the USPTO complies with any request to enter an insignia into the database, provided that the request is made by a federally or state recognized Native American tribe, and provided that the request includes each of the elements identified in the answer to question #5 above.

8. How is the database used at the USPTO? 

The database is used as an aid 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 various marks, including ones which falsely suggest a connection with particular institutions.  If a mark that a party wishes to register as a trademark resembles an insignia of a Native American tribe, the USPTO might conclude that use of that mark would suggest a false connection with the tribe.

9. How do I contact the USPTO for additional information about the database? 

General inquiries may be emailed to tribal.insignia@uspto.gov.

United States Patent and Trademark Office
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Last Modified: 7/27/2011 8:36:54 AM