Can I Trademark the Zia?

In Intellectual Property, Trademarks by Kameron KramerLeave a Comment

Us New Mexicans are well aware of the ZIA. It appears on our State flag, in the design of the State capital building in Santa Fe, and is used in numerous other places, by both the government and private entities. 

But most importantly, the Zia symbol belongs to the Zia Pueblo, and is a sacred religious symbol, having been used since 1200 C.E.  It was originally stolen and used on the New Mexico state flag in 1925 without approval or consultation with the Pueblo. The use of the Zia continued for numerous companies for any number of services or products.

In order to protect the cultural significance of the Zia, in 2014, the Zia Pueblo issued a resolution requesting any commercial entities to stop using the Zia without permission.  The Pueblo requests that anyone wishing to use the Zia ask for permission, which the Pueblo typically grants so long as the use is not in a disrespectful manner.  The Pueblo does ask for a small donation to their education fund in exchange for the use of the Zia. 

The United States Trademark and Patent Office maintains a database of Native American Tribal insignia.  This database is used to prevent others from filing trademarks applications for these images or confusingly similar images. It is the obligation of the Native American tribes to submit the required documentation in order for their tribal insignia to be placed in the database. Any legal action against individuals/companies using the marks, however, must be maintained by the Pueblos, few of whom have the resources required to do so.

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