April 17, 2019

MARATHON — The Marathon City Council’s refusal on March 12 to canonize an official city seal led to Councilman Mark Senmartin applying to trademark the town’s logo with the state a week later. However, according to Marathon City Attorney David Migut, that won’t prevent the city from using the logo.

Senmartin gave the city a 30-day cease-and-desist notice March 26 at a Marathon council meeting, but Migut said after researching the matter that state and federal law recognizes “first-to-use” rights regardless of a trademark application being filed. The city chose the logo during a design contest after incorporation in 1999 and began using it in 2000.

Migut wrote in a memo to the council April 9 that first-use rights mean the city does not have to worry about the cease-and-desist notice.

Migut also wrote that a municipal insignia cannot be registered as a trademark, according to state and federal law. He added that if the city wanted more enforcement power over use of the logo, it could adopt an ordinance. Thus far, three councilman have refused to pass such an ordinance.

Senmartin previously told the council its refusal to adopt the logo as an official seal could lead to the expense of “hundreds of thousands of dollars” to remove the image from city buildings, vehicles, uniforms, letterhead and coozie cup holders were it to be trademarked.

Senmartin said his decision to trademark the seal occurred over disbelief that the council would not adopt a city seal ordinance at the March 12 meeting.

At the same meeting, Councilman Dan Zieg said such a law was unnecessary. There was no one impersonating a code enforcement officer wearing a city logo on his shirt, he had said, and no citations have ever been issued for erroneous use of the logo.

Mayor John Bartus said the seal should be made official 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.

Use of the city logo became an issue before the 2018 election when Zieg endorsed Monroe County Commission candidate Michelle Coldiron in a video recorded in the Marathon council chambers with the city logo clearly visible. The Monroe County State Attorney’s Office investigated the issue and ruled there was no criminal wrongdoing because the logo had never been made the official seal.

State Attorney Dennis Ward recommended the council adopt the logo as the official city seal.

The logo of the Seven Mile Bridge, Sombrero Key Lighthouse, blue ocean and a sunset was based upon a design by a student in 2000 when the city and its first five elected officials held a logo design contest, and subsequently unanimously agreed on the logo.

Bartus served on that first council and previously stated there never was legal advice to make the design official.