Logo Creator Faces Shaker Lawsuit
The city wants the leader of a group in opposition of the income-tax increase to stop using a parody of Shaker Heights' logo.
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Mark Zetzer will likely change the logo for his Shaker Heights Taxpayers Union, but it won't be easy.
The city has threatened legal action if Zetzer, a graphic artist, doesn't do so. All of the free advice lawyers have given the resident indicates a fight for the logo — which replaces two of the four Shaker leaves with dollar signs — isn't worth attorney fees. Still, Zetzer doesn't want his work to go to waste.
"I kind of did put a fair amount of time into that logo design," he said. "The logo says exactly what we want it to say, which is that Shaker isn't just about a pretty suburb, it's a high-cost suburb. It doesn't have to be, we don't think."
Zetzer sounded certain Tuesday that such a statement isn't important enough to face a lawsuit from the city. Zetzer placed the logo on his group's recently created Facebook page. He also planned to use it on yard signs and brochures to oppose the city's August ballot issue that will raise Shaker's income tax rate to 2.25 percent from 1.75 percent if residents approve it.
"The City demands that you and the Shaker Heights Taxpayers Union immediately cease and desist any use, including in the slightly altered form, of the City's logo comprised of the Service Mark of four leaves design," read a letter from Bill Gruber, the city's interim director of law, addressed to Zetzer.
The law director said Zetzer would face legal action if he didn't provide written confirmation that he would stop using the logo, which is a trademark registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The letter, written on May 15, gave Zetzer five days to take action. Gruber confirmed he has talked to Zetzer since then and gave him extra time.
"I'm not anxious to go to court and never am," Gruber said. "We just want to protect the use of the city's logo."
Gruber said he no issues with people opposing the tax increase or creating parodies. He said the city is most concerned with the potential confusion that Zetzer's version of the logo might cause with some residents.
Gruber concluded that Zetzer's use of the logo would be a bigger deal if he were "trying to make a buck" while using it.
Some members of Zetzer's group told him the city's actions seemed like a SLAPP — Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation.
"I think this is an intimidation move by them," Zetzer said. "(Advising lawyers said,) 'Just change it. It's going to cost you money to fight it. You're probably right in that you have the right to do it, but you'd have to defend it in court.'
"That's what a SLAPP is designed to do. You spend money to defend yourself, and it slows down your cause or bankrupts your cause."