A Montgomery County judge has denied a request by the state’s largest teacher’s union to stop Gov. Larry Hogan’s campaign from using an apple in bumper stickers and social media posts.
Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge Michael Mason issued the ruling late Monday afternoon following a hearing that lasted several hours on Friday.
“We’re grateful for the court’s ruling today,” said Timothy Maloney, a former legislator and partner at Greenbelt-based Joseph, Greenwald & Laake P.A., who is representing the Hogan campaign. “It permits the Hogan campaign and many teachers across Maryland to continue using a long-standing and universally known symbol for education, the apple, as part of their expression of support for Governor Hogan’s re-election. The court has now denied the union’s demand for an injunction twice in the last 10 days, so we hope the union end this litigation and stop using teachers’ hard earned dues money on this litigation.”
A spokesman for the union suggested that another courtroom battle would be forthcoming.
The Maryland State Education Association filed suit against the governor and his campaign after Hogan began using a bumper sticker featuring the phrase “Teachers for Hogan” in which a red apple was used in place of the “O” in the Hogan.
The governor later used an apple on a social media post in which it criticized the union for suing him over the use of the image. The campaign also posted a video in which campaign workers delivered a basket of apples to the union’s Annapolis offices with a note that read: “There are plenty of apples to go around! Looking forward to working with you the next four years.”
The union claimed it holds a service mark on the outline of an apple when used in conjunction with the phrase “Teacher recommended.” The phrasing on the governor’s bumper sticker violated that service mark, an attorney for the union argued.
The union last week sought a temporary injunction against the Hogan campaign. The union also asks the court to issue a permanent prohibition against using the logo or campaign materials containing the logo and an order requiring the Hogan campaign to destroy any campaign materials using the logo.
The logo, the outline of an apple, is protected by a registered service mark that is widely used in “apple ballots” for candidates endorsed by the union. The union is endorsing Ben Jealous, Hogan’s Democratic opponent in the gubernatorial race.
Mason’s ruling from the bench Monday means the governor can continue, barring an appeal by the union, to use the bumper stickers as well as any other similar campaign material. The union can still move forward with a lawsuit to permanently bar Hogan from using the logo and seeking monetary damages.
“It is unfortunate that Governor Hogan’s campaign was not amenable to resolving this matter quickly and without fanfare, forcing us to file this lawsuit to protect our trademark,” said Adam Mendelson, a spokesman for the union. “We remain confident in the merits of our case and that the court will ultimately decide, after fully considering the matter during the next stage of the proceedings, that Governor Hogan’s campaign has infringed on our registered trademark. As we have done in previous elections with candidates regardless of party, we will continue to defend our registered trademark of an apple in connection with phrases that imply the political endorsement of educators or teachers.”
Maloney said such a trial might not be scheduled for six months or more.