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M-22

Flickr user David Drexler/Flickr / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

A federal judge has thrown out the state’s challenge to a Traverse City business that trademarked a highway sign.

The company brands t-shirts, water bottles, wine, and other merchandise with the M-22 logo. Attorney General Bill Schuette said a company can’t do that because the sign belongs to the public. But a federal judge said the state couldn’t show how its interests are harmed by the trademark.

“It’s a major sigh of relief for us. Finally, there’s a decision in our favor. It’s what we’ve always believed,” said M-22 business owner Matt Meyers.

There’s a fascinating intellectual property rights war going on that may have big implications for anyone who has a business and is thinking about using a symbol in the public domain. 

If you drive around much, you’ve likely seen bumper stickers and T-shirts bearing the familiar diamond-shaped M-22 logo that designated a scenic highway in the Leelanau Peninsula.

Flickr user David Drexler/Flickr / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

It seems tourists driving up north on M-22 are a little bit too enthusiastic in expressing their appreciation for what’s been called one of the most scenic drives in the country.

People are stealing those M-22 signs. Around 90 signs have been replaced in the past three years.

In response, the Michigan Department of Transportation is changing the signs. No longer will they read “M-22”, but rather just “22”.

The state hopes that will make signs less attractive to sticky-fingered vandals.

Broneah Inc.'s trademark on the M-22 highway route marker.
USPTO

Several weeks ago I posted on the debate taking place over the trademark owned by brothers Matt and Keegan Myers.

They've captured the love people have for northwest Michigan and Leelanau County with their M-22 business.

M-22 has been a success, but they've also been working to keep others from selling stuff emblazoned with a Michigan state road sign symbol.

Larry Page / wikimedia commons

Several years ago, brothers Matt and Keegan Myers had an idea - capitalize on the love people have for the Leelanau County area by selling t-shirts, hats, coffee cups, bumper stickers, wine, and other items with the state highway M-22 logo on them.

State highway M-22 winds through the scenic coastal areas northwest of Traverse City, and along the Sleeping Bear Dunes, Michigan's "pinkie."