“If we don’t do it and they do it, then we can’t do it.”

May 12, 2019 Off By Jay Hubbard

The quote in the headline above was spoken by Commissioner Grant Cheek at the May board meeting earlier this month. You can watch the full discussion in the video linked further down the page. The commissioners were discussing a resolution to approve a five month old trademark application. To understand the issue it might be helpful to look back about six months to last December.

It all started with an attempt to quash free speech when Adam Smith, self-appointed commissioner over the Internet, took it upon himself to file a trademark application for the town of Ramseur. Smith’s action was illegitimate, and possibly illegal, and should have resulted in his immediate censure if not removal from the board because he filed the application and was reimbursed the nearly $1,000 fee before at least some board members ever even heard about it.

On February 8th, 2019, I summarized the issue as follows, “In December of 2018, Commissioner Smith decided to trademark the “Where Family and Friends Meet” slogan and Kerri Lindley’s design. He paid a $923 application fee and was reimbursed for that expense by the Town of Ramseur on January 11, 2019. The application was completed on or about January 21, 2019, based on dates shown in the documents, and none of this was done with the knowledge or approval of the full Board of Commissioners.

I hope readers will take the time to click through and read the original post, which includes links to copies of the application, relevant meeting minutes, and video from the February 2019 meeting.

On Thursday, May 2nd, 2019, Commissioner Smith came before his peers seeking, no, demanding that the Board of Commissioners pass a resolution authorizing his rogue action of almost six months ago. Smith faces an election this year and will have an uphill climb to overcome multiple instances of inappropriate and unethical behavior since his appointment last August.

Smith can’t even recognize that he’s done anything wrong. If he did we would have seen him come before the board with some humility, saying, ‘I’m sorry, I thought it was important and I jumped the gun. I was new and didn’t understand the rules. Please forgive my mistake, but I still think it’s important,’ or words to that effect. Instead he and the current majority dug in their heels and voted to pass a technicality they think will fool their neighbors. Yes, they  really do think we’re all that stupid.

I hate to have to be the one to break it to Mr. Smith and his colleagues, but this resolution changes nothing. Approval six months after the fact doesn’t get you a pass. Sure, you can stand in front of constituents and tell them that the Board approved the application, and it will technically be true. Most people will see straight through the lie when presented with a factual timeline, so please share this information with everyone you know.

I’m not convinced it isn’t all just a huge waste of money anyway, because “despite the creative arguments in favor of registration, the Federal Circuit affirmed the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s decisions denying both municipal trademark applications… A local government entity cannot obtain a federal trademark registration for the entity’s official insignia.” Click the link and read it yourself. I think you’ll reach the same conclusion: municipal logos and insignia can not be trademarked or copyrighted

And all of this came about because the mayor and a couple of commissioners don’t like being criticized. They couldn’t stand having constituents recording their meetings, posting them online, and citizens, sometimes anonymously, holding them accountable for their words and actions, and they weren’t going to stand for it. Adam Smith, being the Internet capitalist, real estate mogul, and great motivational speaker that he says is, went to work on the problem and the trademark application was one of several misguided ideas he decided to run with at that time.

When Smith, Cheek, Cox, or Shaw tries to tell you that the Board of Commissioners approved the trademark application, don’t fall for it. Remind them of what you read here and remember in November. Approval after the fact doesn’t change the fact that the process started and ran for five months or more without legal board approval.