- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 26, 2017

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) - A federal judge has rejected the state’s argument that a northern Michigan company’s trademark of the highway sign M-22 violates federal law.

The company M22 LLC trademarked the state highway sign in 2006, and it now has several similar trademarks that store owners put on T-shirts, hats, coffee mugs and other items.

The state sued the company, arguing that the state risks losing federal highway funding and suffering irreparable harm if it can’t bar trademarks on its highway markers. The state has argued that M22’s control of the sign violates Michigan law and the state’s highway manual.

“Any traffic control device design or application provision contained in this Manual shall be considered to be in the public domain,” state officials wrote. “Traffic control devices contained in this Manual shall not be protected by a patent, trademark or copyright.”

M22 attorney Eric Misterovich countered: “A T-shirt isn’t a traffic control device.”

U.S. District Court Judge Gordon Quist ruled last week that Michigan attorneys general were “speculative” in arguing the state would be hurt by the company’s trademark. Quist said the case should be sent to state court to see if a local judge would hear the complaint.

“If the state doesn’t have any type of standing to pursue this claim in federal court, I find it hard to believe a state court is going to come out with any contrary opinion,” Misterovich said.

Andrea Bitely, spokesperson for Attorney General Bill Schuette, said state attorneys are reviewing Quist’s decision to decide their next step.

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