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.

Filed Under: cities, dan zieg, florida, john bartus, marathon city, municipalities, trademark


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  • icon
    Gary (profile), 11 Apr 2019 @ 11:48am

    In other news...

    Florida man trademarks city insignia, now claims ownership of city.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Apr 2019 @ 1:36pm

    Someone please make sure to email a copy of this article to Councilman Dan Zieg, Mayor John Bartus, Vice Mayor Steven Cook and Councilman Luis Gonzalez.

    And the lawyer, if anyone has his name/address.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 11 Apr 2019 @ 1:41pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 11 Apr 2019 @ 1:51pm

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

      I, too, am curious how he was able to truthfully fill out the trademark application paperwork.

      Knowingly providing false information to the PTO is a federal crime isn't it?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 11 Apr 2019 @ 5:22pm

      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:

      Word Mark PUBLIC DOMAIN
      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
      Mark Drawing Code (4) STANDARD CHARACTER MARK
      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
      Type of Mark SERVICE MARK
      Register PRINCIPAL
      Live/Dead Indicator LIVE

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 11 Apr 2019 @ 5:28pm

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

        Oh...

        He then chose to prove his points by registering the logo as a trademark with the State of Florida.

        From the linked article. Not a federal trademark. And the Florida mark search tool is even worse than the uspto's.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      btr1701 (profile), 12 Apr 2019 @ 10:57am

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

      Seems like all he has to do is make a few t-shirts with the logo and sell them to his buddies for a few bucks each and he's now satisfied the 'using his trademark in commerce' bit of the requirement.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Apr 2019 @ 2:22pm

    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.

    He was a member of the party that the majority supported. Is any other reason needed?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Valkor, 11 Apr 2019 @ 2:50pm

      Re:

      Local elections usually aren't partisan. In a small town, almost certainly not.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        JoeCool (profile), 11 Apr 2019 @ 4:53pm

        Re: Re:

        Actually, they are until you reach tiny towns - say, a few hundred people. Then it changes to relative or friend of wealthiest family in town.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Valkor, 12 Apr 2019 @ 7:24am

          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.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Valkor, 11 Apr 2019 @ 2:30pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Valkor, 11 Apr 2019 @ 2:48pm

      Re: Take him at his word

      Just read the linked article.

      The image in question is a logo, not a seal. The town may not even have an official seal. Mr. Senmartin still has no grounds for a claim on the logo.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Apr 2019 @ 3:30pm

    What makes the author of this article think that a trademark has been registered with the USPTO?
    The linked news article suggests otherwise.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Valkor, 11 Apr 2019 @ 3:37pm

      Re:

      Also true. If you read carefully, it says that the trademark is registered with the state of Florida. So, it's not a federal issue, but this guy is still a raging idiot.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Agammamon, 11 Apr 2019 @ 3:35pm

    easily one by

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Apr 2019 @ 4:11pm

    there's a word for that

    Extortion

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Apr 2019 @ 6:49pm

    Remember, kids - if it wasn't for trademark law we'd never have towns!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ed (profile), 12 Apr 2019 @ 7:58am

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Apr 2019 @ 11:37am

    He should demand a ransom of one million dollars. Bonus if he also threatens to kill them via sharks with freaking lasers if they don't pay.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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