The U.S. Patent & Trademark Office’s (“U.S. PTO”) Native American tribal insignia database is a part of the Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS). This database records the official tribal insignias of federally or state-recognized American Indian and Alaska Native tribes (Native American tribes).
The U.S. PTO considers the tribal insignias in its database when examining trademarks in pending applications. Tribes who choose to participate allow the U.S. PTO to evaluate whether a trademark may suggest a false connection to their tribal insignia and refuse registration. This gives tribes the benefit of helping to protect their intellectual property and cultural heritage.
There are no fees or forms. For more information about participating in the database, see the refreshed Native American tribal insignia database page on the U.S. PTO website. Please contact Tribal.Insignia@uspto.gov, or call the Office of Liaisons and Petitions at 571-272-8950 with any questions. See U.S. PTO Trademark Alert bulletin.
A well-known trademark infringement/dilution case involving a Native American mark was brought in 2012 by the Navajo Nation (one of this country’s largest Native American tribes) against Urban Outfitters (a multinational lifestyle retail corporation) and its subsidiaries over the use of “NAVAJO”/”NAVAHO” on apparel, jewelry, and other goods in the U.S. District Court of New Mexico. The public knows acts like these as “cultural appropriation,” “cultural misappropriation,” and/or “cultural theft” of cultural words, insignias, or other forms of traditional cultural expressions which corporations use for profit without recognition to its origin. This case was ultimately settled in late-2016, and both parties agreed to work together under a license and supply agreement to create and market authentic Navajo products. See https://indiancountrytoday.com/archive/navajo-nation-and-urban-outfitters-reach-agreement-on-appropriation.