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Did you know that if you are selling something with a military logo, military name, or military insignia you must get a license to do so? Today, we are going to look at the trademark concerns and licensing requirements for each of the five US military branches.
What Does the Military Have Trademarked?
The military branches collectively hold over 500 different trademarks on their logos, slogans, and names. It is safe for all Silhouette and Cricut crafters to assume that any product they are selling with the name of a military branch or logo should be licensed. This includes phrases such as U.S. Army, U.S. Army, Semper Fidelis, A Few Good Men, Blue Angels, and many more. To find out if a specific phrase or mark is trademarked, head to U.S. Patent and Trademark Office TESS Search Engine online. This allows you to type in your phrase or mark to see if it is trademarked. If you locate a trademarked term you’d like to use, click on it and see what the trademark details are. It is possible that a phrase is trademarked on certain items (for example a phrase may be trademarked for use on cups but not shirts).
A special note on insignias: If you are interested in obtaining a license on an official seal, you should know that official military seals cannot be used for any commercial purpose.
Branch Specific Information
Each branch of the military has different licensing requirements and contact information. The specifics of each branch make it difficult to provide comprehensive information, so the remainder of this post will summarize the processes and give you links for more information.
- Offers a thorough application available online through this link. The application asks for company information, banking information, business financials, and suggests proposed sample products. If your application is approved, you will then be sent the licensing application packet.
- FAQ regarding the U.S. Navy licensing program are located here.
U.S. Marine Corps
- The USMC is the friendliest military branch in terms of licensing for crafters. They offer three different licensing programs: one for large businesses, one for small businesses, and one for hobbyists. This means that if your business makes less than $5,000 per year, sells directly to your customers, and does not use an outside manufacturer, you do not have to file an application. Instead, you should fill out the Hobbyist License Agreement, pay a small fee ($25 or $50 depending on sales), and submit royalty information annually. After joining their program, you’ll receive a Hobbyist number which should be included in all of your listings. The Hobbyist number will actually make your listings more compelling, as it shows customers that you are official with the Marines and they approve your product!
- If your sales are $5000.01 or more per year, you’ll need to fill out the licensing application for small business located here.
- FAQ regarding the USMS licensing program are located at this link.
U.S. Air Force
- The U.S. Air Force offers a lengthy application online which asks for company information, banking information, a business plan, and requires product samples.
- The U.S. Air Force maintains a list of license holders on their website. If you are interested in U.S. Air Force images, read through the list to see if similar requests have been honored in the past.
- FAQ regarding the U.S. Air Force licensing program can be found at this link.
U.S. Coast Guard
- The U.S. Coast Guard offers an application online that asks basic business information, your product plans and ideas, and ask for specific samples including product samples and brochures from your business.
- The U.S. Coast Guard maintains a list of FAQ located at this link.
- The U.S. Army has a brand portal, which requires you to register before accessing, located at this link. The registration took about 24 hours to be approved by the U.S. Army web team. Information from within the portal answers questions about licensing, as well as strict brand requirements including which fonts can be used.
What if You Don’t Want to Get a License?
It is important to get a license or other permission if you use a trademarked design or slogan, including those related to the US Military. Unfortunately, trademark holders can (and will!) seek legal actions against you and/or your business for infringement.
Note: This article previously appeared on Terri Johnson Creates, but was removed after a website redesign. It was updated April 15, 2021.
Since 2015, Christine Schinagl has been helping crafters start and run craft businesses through her blog, Cutting for Business. As a Silhouette and Cricut crafter herself, she has a unique take on what works and what doesn’t work in the craft business world. She also teaches a course on creating digital SVG designs, available at How to Design SVGs.