2017-07-06 / Front Page

Use of ‘M-22’ upheld

Stop stealing signs
By Eric Carlson
Of The Enterprise staff

It appears owners of the M-22 trademark are weathering a legal challenge by the state Attorney General.

Five years ago, the State of Michigan filed a civil lawsuit against owners of a company called M22 LLC, Traverse City natives Keegan and Matt Myers. The brothers had begun selling tee-shirts and other merchandise emblazoned with the symbol of the popular state highway — a black square with a white diamond containing the characters “M22.”

Neither brother returned calls seeking comment in time for this story.

State Attorney General Bill Schuette said in 2012 that the company unlawfully registered the state highway sign as a trademark. A civil lawsuit filed by the state argued that the trademark made the state highway non-compliant with federal traffic control regulations.

Further, the state continued, Michigan ran a risk of losing federal dollars for highways and would suffer irreparable harm if M22 LLC continued to use its trademark.

Nonetheless, M22 LLC continued to use the M-22 symbol as its trademark – and continued to prosper. Sales of M22 apparel and other merchandise continued to grow at two company-owned bricks-and-mortar stores, in Traverse City and Glen Arbor, and elsewhere.

A federal judge in Grand Rapids rejected the state’s argument against M22 LLC. In a 10-page opinion, U.S. District Judge Gordon Quist said the state’s concerns were nothing more than speculation, and the state could not show it would lose federal highway funding or suffer harm now or in the future.

The state “cites no statute, regulation or case that requires it to police and prevent trademark registrations of the State’s highway markers by third parties in Michigan or, for that matter, on the risk of losing highway funding,” Judge Quist said in his written opinion.

The judge ordered the case remanded back to the Circuit Court in Lansing — where it was first filed — to see if a state judge will hear the state’s complaint against M22 LLC. On May 1, the Circuit Court in Lansing acknowledged receipt of the remanded case, but no official action has been taken since then, according to court documents.

Also since then, the former Red Lion Motor Lodge on M-22 just south of the Village of Suttons Bay and the former Lakeshore Inn in Glen Arbor have each been rebranded as the M22 Inn. Both are owned by David Gersenson who acquired the Lakefront Inn in July 2015 and the Red Lion Motor Lodge in March of this year.

Both of those properties were renamed just last month as the M22 Inn- Suttons Bay and the M22 Inn- Glen Arbor.

Gersenson told the Enterprise this week that no one has ever approached him expressing any confusion about the M22 name or the logo he is using on the two inns.

“There’s nothing to be confused about,” Gersenson said. “M22 LLC sells apparel and other merchandise; we sell rooms. I’m not trademarking anything. We’re just doing business as the M22 Inn.”

Gersenson said he agrees with the Myers brothers that M22 is a great mark to use in business.

“To me, the whole idea of M22, its scenic beauty and the whole attitude it brings to mind, has resonated with Michiganders and others for a very long time,” Gersenson said.

“I just wish people would stop taking down the M22 signs along the state highway,” he added. “That’s illegal.”

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