Many businesses and other organizations create and/or sell jewelry and other collectibles that incorporate genuine U.S. coins. If your business or organization intends to manufacture, advertise, or sell jewelry or other items that incorporate genuine U.S. coins, please be aware of the following.
Consult with your attorney before embarking on any activity involving the incorporation of genuine United States coins in jewelry or other numismatic items.
Do familiarize yourself with applicable laws.
If you are going to modify the coins you are using in any way, consult with your attorneys to ensure you’re not breaking criminal laws such as 18 U.S.C. § 331.
While the United States Mint cannot issue interpretations of criminal statutes such as this, which fall within the jurisdiction of the U.S. Department of Justice, note that this law prohibits alteration of United States or foreign coins in use as money with the intent to defraud. Businesses should consult with their attorneys and carefully evaluate their proposed products, packaging and advertising.
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.
Should your company wish to use a copyrighted design, contact John Schorn, Chief Counsel, United States Mint, 801 9th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20220. Requests can be faxed to 202-756-6110. Call 202-354-7280 for questions or additional information. The United States Mint deems any unauthorized use of a United States Mint copyrighted design to constitute copyright infringement.
Do remember that modifications to certain United States Mint coins may require consideration of third-party intellectual property.
Be sure to consult your attorney to ensure that any modification you make to the design of a U.S. 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 rights. 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, such as the United States Mint Olympic commemorative coins.
Do refrain from using the words “United States Mint” or “U.S. Mint” or any colorable imitation of such words, in connection with any advertisement if its use conveys the impression that the advertisement 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. Pursuant to 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 Treasury” or “United States Mint” or any colorable imitation of such words, as part of an advertisement, solicitation, business activity or product, in any manner which could reasonably be construed as misleading the public that the product is in any way approved, endorsed, sponsored, authorized by or associated with the Treasury Department or 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 refrain from using United States Mint trademarks in your advertisements.
Registered trademarks include: “United States Mint®,” “U.S. Mint®,” “United States Mint Proof Set®,” “United States Mint Uncirculated Coin Set®,” “United States Mint Silver Proof Set®,” “America the Beautiful Quarters®.”
Please note that this does not represent a complete list of all United States Mint trademarks. 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 featuring or promoting jewelry or other items using or incorporating genuine U.S. coins.
Prominently display disclaimers in advertisements and marketing materials, and set in an easily readable pitch and font. Disclaimers should expressly state that your business concern is not affiliated with the United States Government in any way.
You should also note that your business has created the jewelry with genuine U.S. coins. Disclaimers should be placed immediately adjacent to or below the actual photograph of the replica 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., Civil No. 99-1768, 2001 WL1640073 (D. Minn. Sep. 5, 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 concern is not affiliated with the United States Government in any way, and should note that your business has created the jewelry with genuine U.S. coins.
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, research the Federal Communications Commission regulations and consult individual television network guidelines.