Gov. Jim Doyle and the Department of Tourism unveiled the state’s new logo and slogan last Monday in La Crosse, sparking controversy from citizens who found the slogan a little too familiar.
The logo, featuring a man cart-wheeling over the word Wisconsin and the slogan, “Live Like You Mean It,” replaces the state’s former slogan, “Life’s So Good,” as part of an initiative to make the state more appealing to tourists, according to a statement by the governor.
The state is seeking a federal trademark on the phrase in multiple categories related to marketing, traveling and the state of Wisconsin, according to state brand manager Sarah Klavas.
Although the slogan is new for Wisconsin, clothing companies, real estate brokers, diet and nutritional companies and even spirits company Bacardi have previously used the slogan in their advertising campaigns.
Four companies currently have “live” trademarks to use the term, according to the U.S. Trademark and Patent Office database.
According to Klavas, the state obviously looked into the legality of the use of the phrase and does not believe the state will face any legal repercussions as a result.
“Our federal trademark work continues to progress smoothly. We’ve taken all of the right steps in this process, which can commonly take up to six months.” Klavas said. “With trademark law, no one has a monopoly on words.”
Two University of Wisconsin law professors said they agree with Klavas and do not anticipate the state will run into any legal troubles as a result.
“Different companies can have the same trademark as long as they’re applied to different products,” UW law professor Shubha Ghosh said. “The thing that is important for legal rights is: Are consumers likely to be confused?
According to law professor Anuj Desai, geography plays a large role in trademark law as well. Just because a real estate agent in Kentucky used the phrase does not prevent the state of Wisconsin from doing so as well, he added.
However, Ghosh warned of the precedents of going after states for trademark violations. He cited a famous 1990s case when Ringling Brothers sued the state of Utah for their use of the slogan “The Greatest Snow on Earth.”
The circus company felt the state encroached on their famous slogan “The Greatest Show on Earth.” Ultimately, Ringling Brothers won the suit.
Despite the wide use of the phrase, the state plans to go ahead and begin using the slogan to help develop state awareness, Klavas said.
“We want to integrate it consistently with tourism and then move it on to other sectors of the state’s economy,” Klavas said.
The slogan was designed as part of the “identity package” for the state that included doing consumer insight, research review and looking at how people think of Wisconsin, Klavas added.
The cost of coming up with the slogan and designing the logo cost the state $50,000 that came out of the Department of Tourism’s annual budget, Klavas said.