According to the lawyers at the U.S. Mint, the term "America the Beautiful" cannot be used when referring to the quarter series without noting that it is a trademark.
Coin World is reporting [subscriber access here] that Numismatic Guarantee Corporation will change the labels they use on certified 2010 quarters to remove "America The Beautiful" from across the top because the lawyers at the U.S. Mint complained.
According to registered trademark number 77823874, the trademark is for the term America the Beautiful Quarter™ with the disclaimer "No claim is made to the exclusive right to use America or Quarters apart from the mark as shown."
Although NGC said that they would not fight the request, NGC’s original label did not use the word "Quarter" and is well within the spirit of what was written in the trademark application.
Prior to the quarters program, many of us knew America the Beautiful as the patriotic song based on the poem by Katharine Lee Bates and music by Samuel A. Ward. We also knew the phenomenal rendition by the late Ray Charles. Does the U.S. Mint’s actions mean that Charles’s estate can issue a cease and desist order against the U.S. Mint?
But did you know there was a documentary titled America the Beautiful asking whether is America obsessed with beauty? The film had a limited release in 2008. Does this mean that the U.S. Mint is infringing on the filmmakers copyright?
Will the U.S. Mint and the United States Geologic Survey become entangled in an inter-Executive Branch tussle over the name? The USGS sells the "America The Beautiful – The National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Annual Pass." that allows the holder to use these lands without paying an additional fee. Will this be the case of prior usage when the Department of the Treasury fights it out with the Department of the Interior? DOI may not be in a good mood given their involvement with the current disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.
This is an overzealous prosecution by the U.S. Mint’s Office of Chief Counsel (OCC). It appears that the U.S. Mint is taking a common phrase out of the American lexicon and claiming it as their exclusive rights. In the process, OCC is using legal antagonism against the secondary market that serves the collecting community who is being asked to buy these coins.
Considering the reduction in sales caused by the "Great Recession" and collector fatigue over yet another series, it is not in the U.S. Mint’s interest to alienate the collecting community. I urge the U.S. Mint to reread Bates’s historic poem and reconsider its actions regarding a name.
AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL!
Not a trademark but a sentiment.
Scott Barman is a collector and author of the Coin Collector’s Blog (coinsblog.blogspot.com). When Scott is not playing with his coins, he works as an information security analyst in the Washington, DC area. In between all of that, he can be found with his wife and two puggles while they check out his pocket change.