City Councilman Who Really Wants His Town To Trademark Its Seal Trademarks It Himself As A Stunt

from the not-how-it-works dept

It’s always struck me as a little odd when cities and townships go out and trademark their logos and official seals. On the one hand, I get it. A city wants to control its branding so others can’t abuse it, even if those methods for abuse could probably be combated by laws against fraud and so on. On the other hand, far too many city governments tend to wield these trademarks to stamp out criticism, parody, and political challengers.

That said, the rush to trademark city logos and seals also isn’t universal. Florida’s Marathon City, for instance, has a logo that has not been registered as a trademark. Marathon City Councilman Mark Senmartin has been making all kinds of noise about how the city should absolutely codify its logo as a trademarked city seal. But when the larger city government examined the issue, it found no reason to do so.

At the March 12 meeting, Councilman Dan Zieg shared his view that an official seal was unnecessary. There was no one impersonating a code enforcement officer wearing a city seal on his shirt, he had said, and no citations ever issued for erroneous use. Mayor John Bartus said the logo should be made the official seal but never actually voted on the measure due to a procedural glitch. Nevertheless, the adoption measure failed due to Zieg, Vice Mayor Steven Cook and Councilman Luis Gonzalez declining to codify the seal.

Now, if you’re questioning how a city can trademark its own insignia, it very much cannot, which renders this entire episode all the more strange. The point of trademark law is to signify for the public where goods and services come from in commerce, not to be used by governments in this way.

In a subsequent meeting, Senmartin suggested that the council’s declining to trademark the seal exposed the city to the risk of thousands of dollars and to the abuse of the logo in the future, no matter whether any abuse had occurred thus far. All of this hand-wringing would be only mildly interesting, except that Senmartin apparently thought he could prove his point by going ahead and trademarking the logo himself, and then offering to sell it back to Marathon City.

Senmartin now owns the logo and gave the city a 30-day cease-and-desist notice at the March 26 council meeting. Senmartin, the longest consecutively serving councilperson since the city’s incorporation in 1999, has no prediction what will transpire at the Tuesday, April 9, meeting when the council is set to hear input from City Attorney David Migut on options at this point.

Senmartin made an offer at last week’s meeting that the council buy the trademark from him for $1 plus cost. Migut addressed the item at the time referencing Senmartin’s official and individual capacities.

For someone so concerned with trademark law, it doesn’t appear Senmartin understands it all that well. As far as options for the city are concerned, it sure seems like all it needs is a simple hearing with the USPTO to explain that Senmartin is pulling a stunt and not actually using his “trademark” in commerce. Or it could point out that trademark law doesn’t allow for the trademarking of municipality insignia like this. Nor is there any risk of public confusion over Marathon City’s continued use of the logo, meaning that the city could just ignore Senmartin’s C&D altogether. Sure, it might have to defend its use in court if Senmartin is actually bonkers enough to sue his own institution, but that seems like a case easily won by the city.

So this stunt doesn’t feel like one with a long shelf-life. On the other hand, one wonders what is going through the mind of the voters that put this clown into office in the first place.

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Comments on “City Councilman Who Really Wants His Town To Trademark Its Seal Trademarks It Himself As A Stunt”

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Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Is Senmartin or the public, or is it the city that's confused?

I am wondering which markets Marathon City Councilman Mark Senmartin claimed the trademark was for, and if he has any actual commerce in those markets? Then, since the city isn’t actually involved in commerce (or are they?) they can just go ahead and use the mark because there would be no consumer confusion.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Is Senmartin or the public, or is it the city that's confuse

I searched uspto dot gov and could not find the mark in question. The linked article doesn’t mention the trademark id either. I wonder if he really registered the mark or just claimed he did.

I did find this bit of wtf though:

Goods and Services IC 036. US 100 101 102. G & S: Incubation services, namely, rental of office space to freelancers, start-ups, existing businesses and non-profits. FIRST USE: 20180606. FIRST USE IN COMMERCE: 20180813 IC 041. US 100 101 107. G & S: Provision of facilities for artists’ studios and exhibits. FIRST USE: 20180606. FIRST USE IN COMMERCE: 20180813

Standard Characters Claimed
Serial Number 88076830
Filing Date August 14, 2018
Current Basis 1A
Original Filing Basis 1A
Published for Opposition January 8, 2019
Registration Number 5709640
Registration Date March 26, 2019
Owner (REGISTRANT) Public Domain, LLC AKA Public Domain LIMITED LIABILITY COMPANY CALIFORNIA 2916 Marathon St Los Angeles CALIFORNIA 90026
Live/Dead Indicator LIVE

Valkor says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

I would honestly be surprised if that tiny town had more than a mayor.

To your point, I will disagree based on my own experience. Based on municipal elections I’ve seen in towns with populations between 10 and 300 thousand in central California, City Council elections are non partisan. Sure, there were divisions, but they weren’t based on state or national level issues.

Valkor says:

Take him at his word

The city should object strenuously to being forced into registering this damn thing.

Step 1) Respond with a letter from the City Attorney telling him to eat a dick and please do sue.

If he sues, proceed to
Step 2) Counter sue to get the trademark invalidated and demand legal fees.

Step 3) Win counter suit, collect legal fees from idiot councilman.

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