DOs and DON’Ts for Businesses Interested in Altering, Colorizing or Plating U.S. Coins
Not altered, colorized, or gold-plated by the United States Mint
Do consult with your attorney before embarking on any activity involving the modification of genuine United States coins.
Do be aware of existing copyrights in United States coin designs.
The United States Mint may own copyright by assignment, as permitted by 17 U.S.C. § 105.
In fact, the United States Mint owns copyright in several commemorative and circulating coin designs.
Although the copyright symbol does not appear on the coin itself, the United States Mint generally includes the symbol on marketing materials.
Copyrighted coin designs include several designs used in the 1995-1996 Olympic Commemorative Coin Program, the 1995 Civil War Battlefield Commemorative Coin Program, and the Golden Dollar (Sacagawea) coin obverse.
If your company wants to use a copyrighted design, then you will need to contact Jean Gentry, Deputy Chief Counsel, United States Mint, 801 9th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20220.
Requests may be faxed to (202) 756-6110.
The United States Mint deems any unauthorized use of a United States Mint copyrighted design to constitute copyright infringement.
Do remember that modification to certain United States Mint coins may require consideration of third-party intellectual property rights.
Be sure to consult your attorney to ensure the modification you are contemplating to make to the design of a United States coin does not constitute an unauthorized derivative work of a copyright-protected design and does not impact upon any trademark, publicity right or other intellectual property right of a third-party.
The United States Mint may be a licensee/permittee of the owner of a design or design source.
In addition, third-party trademarks may be incorporated into United States Mint coin designs under license from their owners.
Do not use the words "United States Mint" or "U.S. Mint" in connection with any advertisement if its use gives the impression that the advertisement or product is approved, endorsed, or authorized by the United States Mint.
18 U.S.C. § 709 expressly prohibits such use in a manner reasonably intended to convey the impression that the advertisement is approved, endorsed, or authorized by the United States Mint.
31 U.S.C. § 333, the Secretary of Treasury may impose civil penalties of $5,000 ($25,000 for broadcast or telecast) for the use of the words "Department of the Treasury," "United States Mint" or any abbreviation of the words, as part of an advertisement, solicitation, business activity, or product, in a manner which could reasonably be construed as conveying the false impression that the business activity or product is in any way approved, endorsed, sponsored, authorized by or associated with the Department of the Treasury or the United States Mint.
Criminal penalties of $10,000 fine per use ($50,000 per broadcast or telecast) and up to one-year imprisonment may be assessed for knowing violations of this provision.
Do not use United States Mint trademarks in your advertisements.
Registered trademarks include: "United States Mint®", "United States Mint Proof Set®", "United States Mint Uncirculated Coin Set®", "United States Mint American Legacy Collection®", "America the Beautiful Quarters™", "Fort Knox Collection®", and "50 State Quarters®".
The United States Mint also considers the terms "United States Mint Silver Proof Set™", "50 State Quarters® Silver Proof Set", "50 State Quarters® Uncirculated Set", as well as the graphic logos associated with the 50 State Quarters® Program, to be common law trademarks of the United States Mint.
Copyright protection also exists with regard to the United States Mint's 50 State Quarters® graphic logos.
Please note that this does not represent a complete list of all United States Mint
trademarks and copyrights.
The United States Mint deems any unauthorized use of a United States Mint trademark, or the use of a similar mark, likely to cause confusion to constitute trademark infringement.
Do include a disclaimer in all advertisements, order forms, web pages and other marketing materials that feature or promote altered, colorized, or plated genuine United States coins.
Disclaimers should be prominently displayed in advertisements and marketing materials, and set in an easily readable pitch and font. Disclaimers should expressly state that your business is not affiliated with the United States Government in any way.
You should also note that the United States Government does not endorse the featured products.
Disclaimers should be placed immediately adjacent to or below the actual photograph of the product used in the advertisement or marketing material, and should not be buried in "fine print" at the bottom of the advertisement or marketing material.
Disclaimers should appear in a different color than the background of the photograph box and should be clear and noticeable.
For additional suggestions, see
United States v. The Washington Mint, LLC, et al., 143 F. Supp. 2d 1141 (D. Minn. 2001).
Do include a disclaimer in all television, video or radio advertisements, and identify your product clearly and not in a deceptive or confusing manner.
Disclaimers should expressly state that your business is not affiliated with the United States Government in any way, and should note that the United States Government does not endorse the featured products.
Disclaimers should be clear, legible and prominent, and should be placed at the beginning of the advertisement (close to the start of voiceover and first appearance of product graphics). Disclaimers should be presented simultaneously in both the audio and video portions of the advertisement. Audio disclaimers should be delivered in volume and cadence sufficient for an ordinary consumer to hear and understand.
Video disclaimers should be of a size, shade and duration sufficient for an ordinary consumer to read and understand, with each disclaimer line placed against contrasting background.
Attention should be paid to the selection of music and graphics background so as not to create an atmosphere that may suggest to consumers that the government is the source or sponsor of the product as it is being offered, especially as this may diminish the effectiveness of the disclaimers.
For some disclaimer benchmarks see FCC Regulations
47 C.F.R. § 73.1212 (a)(2)(ii) and consult individual television network guidelines.