Can You Trademark a Highway Sign?

Highway signs for famous roadways are increasingly popping up on a variety of consumer merchandise from home décor to t-shirts. But can companies who use these logos obtain trademark protection?

According to the Attorney General of Michigan (and many other legal experts), the answer is no. AG Bill Schuette issued a legal opinion concluding that the highway sign logos are public property and cannot be “commandeered” for private use.

“Because the State of Michigan, the creator of the design, placed the Michigan highway route marker design in the public domain, no entity can lawfully obtain intellectual property protection of the design under trademark or copyright law,” Schuette explained.

“The fact that they have appropriated the design from the public domain and affixed it to merchandise does not create a legitimate basis for trademark protection,” he added.


As reported by the Detroit Free Press, the legal opinion was pursued trademarks with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for road sign logos for two of the state’s most scenic roadways, M-22, which runs along the shore of lake Michigan, and M-119, a 20-mile drive known as the “Tunnel of Trees.” Both businesses were threatening legal action against other merchants that used the highway logos.

How Can I Help?

If you, or someone you know, need help to figure out if you can use an image, sign or design as a trademark or logo, please contact me for a free 30 minute consultation by sending me an email or call TOLL FREE at 1-855-UR IDEAS (1-855-874-3327) and ask for Norman.

– Ex astris, scientia –

I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney.  As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities.  Connect with me on Google +


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.