The MTO claims that North of 7’s logo is similar to a highway sign. In a statement, the MTO said, “The Ministry does not consent to the reproduction and use of the Provincial Route Marker Shield by the North of 7 Distillery.” And went further to say: “. . . a mark on liquor bottles consisting of, or so nearly resembling as to be likely to be mistaken for, the Provincial Route Marker Shield could lead to the belief that the products have received endorsement or are produced and sold under governmental patronage, approval and authority."
Distillery owners Greg Lipin and Jody Miall say they worked with a graphic designer to come up with the logo, using a sign from the 1940s as inspiration. Lipin told CBC News: “The fact that the Ministry of Transportation thought they would be somehow related to our distillery was absurd to me."But the distillery has chosen not to put up a fight In court against the MOT. The company already had two logos, so it simply switched over to using the other one and plans to have the disputed logo redesigned. Lipin noted his company didn’t have much choice since it’s small and doesn’t have a legal department.
We’ve seen a number of highway sign logo vs. government agency trademark disputes this year. Earlier, a Michigan clothing company, M22 came up against the Michigan Department of Transportation for using what the government agency said looked too much like the M-22 highway sign on t-shirts and other merchandise. In November, we wrote about legal action taken by the New Jersey Turnpike Authority against a winery over its green-and-yellow logo that resembled the Garden State Parkway logo. And, in another recent case, two Wisconsin grocers are in a trademark dispute over the use of a highway sign “concept” to promote locally sourced products.
We’ll keep an eye on whether this trend continues in 2017.