July 4th weekend usually makes me think of three things:  the cabin, my favorite random historical facts about Presidents (did you know this?), and the Declaration of Independence.  In fact, I always encourage people on July 4th to read the Declaration of Independence, which includes one of the first usages of one of the most famous marks in the world, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, and one of my favorite passages about government:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.  That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.  That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

What if the founders, after establishing the Patent & Trademark Office, would have filed for the trademark UNITED STATES OF AMERICA?  As we have seen recently with the mark MORMON, trademark protection for UNITED STATES OF AMERICA may have had a chance – even many years after its initial use.

It’s a generally fair assumption that the first use date for  UNITED STATES OF AMERICA as an indicator of source of governing and protective services was 07/04/1776, in the Declaration of Independence.  However, some evidence suggests that the phrase was first used to refer to the states as a collective authoritative unit in newspaper writings earlier in 1776 by someone known only as Planter.  The specimen of use could have been the Declaration of Independence, signage, or some marketing materials bearing the mark in connection with governing and protective services.  The owner could have been listed as a federal agency with the president as the signatory.

But have no fear, Section 2(b) of the Lanham Act is here.  Section 2(b) prohibits federal trademark protection for marks that “comprises the flag or coat of arms or other insignia of the United States, or of any State or municipality, or of any foreign nation, or any simulation thereof.”  Still, this doesn’t prevent people from trying to protect marks related to America or government organizations, and often slang derivations thereof. Your best bet may be using ‘MERICA.

This logo was allowed, but unfortunately the owner failed to provide a suitable specimen of use.


However, often times these filings incorporating government related marks and insignias are met with a 2(b) refusal by the Trademark Office, and  in the case of the logo below, a refusal for disparagement under 2(a).  If this is considered disparaging by the USPTO, surely the Redskins mark should be.

So don’t plan on getting a federal trademark registration using any government insignias anytime soon, and enjoy your bar-b-que and your fireworks this weekend.  ‘MERICA!