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City to Slowik: Stop using our logo

The city of Oak Harbor has asked a candidate for mayor to stop using an advertising design because it infringes on the city’s trademarked symbol, according to City Attorney Phil Bleyhl.

Jim Slowik used a double-sail design on his campaign signs, ads in the News-Times and his Web site that are nearly identical to the city’s logo. The City Council adopted the sail design more than two years ago as part of the Windjammer Plan to redevelop downtown Oak Harbor.

Slowik said he agreed to modify his signs and campaign literature to meet the city’s approval, though it will be a big hassle to make changes to hundreds of signs.

“I want to talk about the issues,” he said, “not small items like this that are nitpicky.”

Others, however, felt Slowik’s use of the symbol was a significant issue. Councilwoman Sheilah Crider said she’s received a number of complaints from residents, including three downtown business people.

“They were wondering why the businesses had to wait three months to get permission to use the logo while the mayor’s candidate has it on his sign,” she said, referring to the fact that Mayor Patty Cohen endorsed Slowik.

“Using our logo seems a bit unprofessional,” she added.

Slowik explained that his campaign committee unanimously chose the sailing logo, especially since it goes along with the slogan “set sail for a new course.” While he admits he purposely decided to use the “symbol for Oak Harbor,” he didn’t think it would cause a problem because he used different colors and left out the words “city of Oak Harbor.”

“We were confident the symbol had not been trademarked,” he said.

While Cohen and Crider were both under the impression that the city had paid to get the symbol registered as a trademark, Bleyhl said that is not the case. Nevertheless, he said the city has established a common-law trademark.

According to the United States Patent and Trademark Office Web site, a federal registration is not required to establish rights in a trademark, though it has advantages. A common-law trademark is obtained by adopting and using a trademark in association with goods or services.

Bleyhl said the city has given out restricted licenses to others, like the merchants of Harborside Shops, for limited use of the symbol.

Slowik claims the logo only became an issue because one council member, possibly another candidate for mayor, complained to Bleyhl. He said he wasn’t happy when he learned that Bleyhl planned to contact an attorney who is an expert in trademark law.

“This is exactly what my campaign is all about,” he said. “The city is spending money on this kind of stuff too often. They spent way too much on consultants.”

Councilman Paul Brewer, a candidate for mayor, said he found out about the logo concerns from Cohen, who told him she was having Bleyhl look into the issue. He said the misuse of the symbol isn’t a huge deal, but that the members of Slowik’s campaign committee should have known better.

“I don’t think they should have used the city’s logo,” he said. “I think he should have researched it.”

Councilwoman Sue Karahalios, also a mayoral candidate, wrote in an email that she did not know if it was OK for Slowik to use the symbol since she wasn’t privy to details of the contract the mayor signed with those who have worked on the logo.

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