WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Thom Tillis (R-NC), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), and Chuck Schumer (D-NY) introduced bipartisan legislation to allow countries, states, and municipalities to obtain federal trademark protection for their flags, symbols, insignia, and seals.
The FLAG Act (Fair Licensing Access for Government) would amend the Lanham Act, the federal trademark law, to allow governmental entities to obtain federal trademark registration for their flags, insignias, and seals at the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).
“Local and state governments have a long and proud history of displaying their flags, insignias and seals,” Tillis said. “These entities should have the right to obtain federal trademark registrations and protect these widely used symbols from criminal counterfeits, and I am proud to co-introduce this bipartisan legislation to give them the opportunity.”
“Seals and symbols are, for many, an important part of their identity. We should protect the right to trademark seals and symbols when there is a benefit to our communities,” Klobuchar said. “Our new bipartisan legislation, the FLAG Act, would amend outdated legislation to make it easier to protect against counterfeit goods and boost local tourist revenues.”
“The FLAG Act amends the current law on the books to allow government entities to register flags, coats of arms, or other insignia as a federal trademark, which will help bolster tourist or licensing programs and in turn fund government services,” Schumer said. “I’m proud to introduce the FLAG Act with my colleagues in the House and Senate to update federal trademark law to reflect the commercial realities of today.”
Current federal trademark law prohibits the registration of governmental flags, insignias, and seals. The policy behind this historical prohibition was to maintain the separation between symbols of sovereignty or governmental authority and commercial symbols.
Federal trademark registration would give governments exclusive rights to use and protect their seals and symbols, which may be enforced either in federal courts or at the border by preventing the importation of infringing goods. Federal trademark registration of seals and flags would also allow municipalities to take advantage of counterfeiting protections and leverage licensing revenue to aid in the enforcement of their marks.
This law would also update American law to comply with our treaty obligations under the Paris Convention.
The FLAG Act is supported by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), the International Trademark Association (INTA), and the American Bar Association, as well as many city and state municipalities.
Representatives Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) and Martha Roby (R-AL) led companion legislation in the House of Representatives.