About the Igloo Tag

What is the Igloo Tag Trademark?

The Igloo Tag Trademark is the internationally recognized symbol of authenticity for Inuit visual arts. Introduced in 1958 by the Canadian federal government, it was created to distinguish works handmade by Canadian artists of Inuit origin from mass-produced works made by non-Inuit using Arctic imagery. In doing so, it protects Inuit artists from fraud, cultural appropriation and theft.

Physical tags bearing the Igloo Tag Trademark are affixed to relevant artwork and include the artist’s name, community, the title of the work and the year the artwork was made. A number to the bottom-right of the physical tag identifies the license holder.

When did the Inuit Art Foundation take ownership? 

After several years of consultations across Inuit Nunangat and southern Canada with artists, collectors, dealers and government organizations, Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) determined it was most appropriate to transfer the Igloo Tag Trademark to an Inuit-led arts organization. Stakeholders identified the Inuit Art Foundation as the best home for it. All trademark and other legal rights to the trademark, as well as the responsibilities for its administration and enforcement, were transferred to the IAF in March 2017.

Since coming under the ownership and control of the IAF, the trademark has been changed so that updated versions say "Inuit art", "art Inuit" and "Inuit art Inuit" respectively. In addition, the IAF has introduced the Igloo Tag Program as a way to license organizations to use, display and promote the Igloo Tag Trademark in association with Inuit artwork.

How does it work?

The Igloo Tag Trademark is only applied to Inuit art, including:

• Sculptures
• Textile art
• Crafts
• Ceramics
• Jewellery
• Fashion goods, such as shoes, boots, hats, scarves, socks, gloves, mittens

There are three license categories under the current Igloo Tag Program:

• Artist association or non-profit organization
• Inuit art retailer
• Inuit art distributer

Licensees are assigned a unique identification number and are not allowed to let anyone else use the Igloo Tag Trademark. The IAF retains the right to audit licensees' use of the Igloo Tag Trademark. Since the IAF is currently consulting on the future of the program, the program’s management may change.

In addition, organizations promoting Inuit art (such as galleries which promote that they have Inuit art for sale in their inventory) are also bound by IAF's guidelines, which provide information on how the Igloo Tag Trademark can be used in marketing and promotional materials. It is important to remember that such organizations must not attach the Igloo Tag on any artworks themselves, unless they are also licensees of the Igloo Tag Program.

Why is it important? 

The Igloo Tag Trademark establishes provenance allowing collectors, curators and dealers to connect an Inuit artist with their work as well as by adding tangible value to the artwork, as shown in the Impact of the Inuit Arts Economy Study (2017), commissioned by the department of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs and conducted by Big River Analytics. The study concluded that consumers are willing to pay an additional $117 on average for pieces sold in association with the Trademark—which adds approximately $3.2 million annually to the Inuit arts economy. Many collectors will not purchase an Inuit art piece if it does not come with an Igloo Tag Trademark.

Who can use it? 

Only licensed organizations can apply the Igloo Tag Trademark on behalf of Inuit artists for the sale of their artwork. In addition, organizations may use the Igloo Tag Trademark to promote genuine Inuit artwork in their inventory. All use of the Igloo Tag Trademark is controlled by the IAF, and all licensees must follow all of the IAF’s policies, terms and conditions.

How does it benefit artists? 

In addition to protecting Inuit artists, the Igloo Tag Trademark allows practicing artists to be a part of, and benefit from, the robust 60-year legacy of an internationally recognized marker of Canadian Inuit art. The Igloo Tag Trademark helps Inuit artists to be paid fairly for their work, facilitates the export of their work from Canada and protects Inuit artists, and dealers and collectors of Inuit art from its appropriation and unauthorized reproduction.

What is the future of the Igloo Tag Trademark? 

As part of the Inuit Art Foundation’s commitment to widely consulting on the future of the Igloo Tag Trademark, it is offering all stakeholders the opportunity to have their voices heard. In addition to in-person consultations, the IAF offered online surveys specifically for artists, collectors and distributors in the winter of 2018.

These results have helped us understand the perception of the Igloo Tag amongst the three primary demographics of Inuit art. From this point, we have learned what we need to improve upon and now have a better idea of the direction we should be moving in.