Trademark Wars: Popular Michigan brand faces state lawsuit over iconic logo

Posted at 6:31 PM, Sep 07, 2016
and last updated 2016-09-07 18:31:27-04

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. – If you’ve ever driven down M-22, you know it’s scenic, lovely, and everything Michigan is about. Safe to say, it’s easy to see why people – residents or tourists – love it.

It’s the reason brothers Matt and Keegan Myers chose the iconic M-22 sign as the logo for their LLC, bearing the same name as the well-known thoroughfare.  But it’s also the reason the two now find themselves facing a state lawsuit.

Years ago, when the company was in its infancy, the brothers filed for a trademark on the sign and its design. After the filing was granted, the state had a five year contention period to challenge the trademark – but they didn’t.

“The brand had been out there all over the place,” said Matt Myers, “So they had all the time in the world to say something.”

It wasn’t until the year after that five-year period expired that the state began to raise issue with the design. Attorney General Bill Schutte penned an opinion petitioning the validity of the trademark itself.

“We did everything by the books – legal,” said Matt. “There’s no arguing that and I don’t think the state would even argue that. I don’t think they can argue that.”

But this week, that’s exactly what the state did, filing suit against the brothers and their company for violating both state and federal law. Trademark of a state’s road signs make them non-compliant with the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Device, so the attorney general’s office says the company’s hold on the design has to go. The Meyers brother aren’t backing down.

“Just because you’re the state of Michigan and you tell us you have all the time, money and power in the world to do this - we worked hard to create it so we can’t just let it go. We did everything legally,” said Matt.

“They look at us like we’re a couple of long-haired, kiteboarding surfer guys that are just going to go away and be scared of their attack on us, but that’s not the case.”

The suit comes in conjunction with the enactment of a state-issued change to the signs themselves. Because of rampant theft of M-22 signs following the success of the brand, legislators elected to remove the ‘M’ and have the signs simple read, ’22.’  The change was put into place the very same day the lawsuit was filed against the Myers’.

“We’re not causing anybody any harm,” said Matt, “I mean if you think about it, we’re being sued by a state that we love.”

M-22, LLC employs roughly 20 full time staffers and nearly 80 seasonal employees between their flagship location in Traverse City and their other location in Glen Arbor. With the filing of the suit, Matt and Keegan are worried for the future of their company, their employees, and their customers.

“We’ve worked really hard to build a business here and we’re really proud of all the people we employ, of all the money we generate for our state, of the full time employees we have working up here, the college kids we can hire,” said Matt. “That’s something we’re not just going to let go of.”

FOX 17 reached out to the Attorney General's office for comment. As of the publishing of this story, they had not gotten back in touch.

For more information on M-22, LLC visit their website or Instagram page.