Native American tribal insignia

Tribal insignias represent a long and cherished history of spiritual and cultural beliefs within American Indian and Alaska Native tribes (Native American). Our database aims to protect these cultural properties by helping us determine if trademarks in pending applications falsely suggest connections to the tribal insignia of Native American tribes. 

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

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example of three different Native American Tribal Insignias of a totem pole for the Tlingit and Haida tribe, feather and skull for the Northern Arapaho Tribe, circle around eagle for Cow Creek tribe

The benefits of the tribal insignia database

While Native American tribes are not legally required to submit their official tribal insignias to our database, we encourage you to participate in the database because of its protective benefit. 

The benefit of including your official tribal insignia in the database is that it allows the USPTO to consider your tribal insignia during the examination of trademark applications. As part of the examination process, we determine whether trademarks falsely suggest a connection to the tribal insignias of participating Native American tribes. This gives you the benefit of helping to protect your intellectual property and cultural heritage.

Tribal insignia requirements

Your tribal insignia must be adopted by tribal resolution and consist of a flag, coat of arms, other emblem, or device. Your tribe must be recognized federally or by your state. A word or words alone are not considered a tribal insignia, and are not entered in the database. 

How to submit a request to be included in the database

You don’t have to pay a fee or complete a form. Your tribe may submit more than one tribal insignia, and we invite you to do so. Please remember to submit only one per request to NativeAmericanTribalInsigniaSubmissions@uspto.gov with the subject line "Native American tribal insignia submission," and include the following attachments: 

  • A written request to enter the tribal insignia
  • A JPG image file of the tribal insignia, which must be: 
    • 300-350 dpi
    • 250-944 pixels in both directions 
    • RGB color 
  • A copy of tribal resolution adopting the tribal insignia as the official one
  • A statement, signed by an official with authority to bind the tribe, confirming that the tribal insignia submitted is the one referred to in the resolution

If your tribe is recognized by a state government only, you must also provide one of the following:

  • A document from a state official showing that the state recognizes the Native American tribe as a tribe, or
  • A citation to a state statute designating the Native American entity as a tribe

 

How your tribal insignia will be processed

We comply with every proper request to include tribal insignia in the database. We do not investigate whether the tribal insignia is the official tribal insignia of the tribe that made the submission. 

Every proper request is assigned a serial number, known as a "non-registration number," and then entered into the database. You can use the number to look up your insignia in the Trademark Status and Document Retrieval (TSDR) system, or in the Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS). 

Once your submission is accepted, you will receive a letter confirming that your tribal insignia has been entered into the database. 

Your tribe’s rights

Choosing to include your tribal insignia in the database does not grant any rights to the tribe that submitted the tribal insignia. Furthermore, entry is not the legal equivalent of registering the tribal insignia as a trademark.

You may be able to register a tribal insignia as a trademark if you’re using it or plan to use it in commerce. You’ll have to submit a trademark application and pay a fee, and we’ll  examine your application to determine if it meets the legal requirements for trademark registration. See our Trademarks basics webpage for more information. 

How to access the tribal insignia database

You can view the tribal insignia database in TESS.

Search database in TESS

  1. Go to “Word and/or Design Mark Search (Free Form).” 
  2. Enter the following search term, including quotation marks: “Native American Tribal Insignia”[od].
  3. Submit query.

Other ways to protect your tribal insignia

We are not a law enforcement agency and do not police the use of trademarks in commerce. If you have evidence that shows a trademark in a pending application or a federally registered trademark infringes on your tribal insignia, consider the options below. 

Letter of Protest

You may use a letter of protest to give the USPTO evidence about the registrability of a trademark in a pending application. If a trademark in a pending application is likely to cause confusion or suggests a false connection, you can use this option to send us evidence. We’ll review your evidence and send it to the examining attorney for consideration if appropriate. You can file the letter prior to publication of the pending application and up to 30 days after publication. 

Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB) notice of opposition 

You may file a notice of opposition if you have evidence to show that your tribe will be damaged, including as a result of dilution by blurring or dilution by tarnishment, by the registration of a trademark on the Principal Register. File the notice within 30 days after the date of publication or within an extension period granted by the TTAB.

TTAB petition for cancellation

You may file a petition for cancellation if you have evidence to show that your tribe will be damaged, including as a result of a likelihood of confusion, of dilution by blurring, or dilution by tarnishment, by a federally registered trademark on the Principal Register. File the petition within five years after the date of the registration of the trademark. 

Contact us

If you need more information or have general questions regarding the Native American tribal insignia database, please email us at Tribal.Insignia@uspto.gov, or call the Office of Liaisons and Petitions at 571-272-8950. We are happy to assist you.

DISCLAIMER: References to particular trademarks, service marks, certification marks, products, services, companies, or organizations appearing on this page are for illustrative and educational purposes only and do not constitute or imply endorsement by the U.S. government, the U.S. Department of Commerce, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, or any other federal agency.