Here’s a trademark ruling from the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals that will interest local government officials.
Both the City of Houston and the District of Columbia applied to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) for federal registration of their respective official insignias. The USPTO denied their applications. Both plaintiffs appealed the denials and their appeals were addressed together in the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals.
Houston argued that a government entity is not an “applicant” prohibited by § 2(b) of the Lanham Act to register an insignia as a trademark. The District argued that § 2(b) must be read to not prohibit a governmental entity from registering an insignia so as to not conflict with the Paris Convention. The court determined that the statute is unambiguous and held that a government entity cannot register its own insignia as a trademark.
Holding: A local government entity may not obtain a federal trademark registration for the entity’s official insignia.