ANDERSON — A local attorney has raised a concern about the use of the Madison County seal by several political campaigns.
Last week attorney John Ritchison sent a letter to the three members of the Madison County Election Board, county attorney Jonathon Hughes and two media outlets.
Ritchison notes that in 2016 at the request of the Madison County Commissioners the county’s long standing trademark, first used in 1976, was trademarked with the office of the Indiana Secretary of State.
At the time the mark was being used for commercial purposes.
Ritchison said the campaigns of Republicans Tim Westerfield, Mikeal Vaughn and Lee Walls are using the county’s seal in their campaigns.
All three candidates indicated Saturday that they were aware the issue was being brought up but had not heard from any county official.
The Madison County Commissioners, who hold the trademark, have not authorized any use of the county’s seal for political purposes.
“It’s being investigated,” Hughes said. “The Commissioners will have to make a decision.”
He didn’t know if there was a way to enforce the use of a county seal.
In his letter Ritchison said the service mark gives the holder the right to keep others from using and infringing on the mark unless granted permission.
“If the mark is not defended,” he wrote, “then it becomes blurred as to who it represents and if the quality and source of the service is what the public expects.”
Ritchison said either himself or Hughes should advise the three candidates to remove the service mark from their campaign signage.
Andrew Lang, co-counsel for the Indiana Election Division of the Secretary of State’s office, said that he’s not aware of any statutory authority that prohibits a candidate from using a county seal or other insignia on campaign materials.
“There could potentially be a civil law issue if a registered trademark is infringed upon, however, that subject is not under the purview of the Indiana Election Division.”
Tim Westerfield is seeking the Republican Party nomination for the District 3 seat on the Madison County Board of Commissioners against incumbent John Richwine.
“I know about it,” he said of the letter to the Election Board. “I’m not concerned. I’m disappointed because I’m proud to live in this community.
“It identifies that I’m running for a post in county government,” Westerfield said. “I went through the minutes and found nothing in 2016 to officially register the trademark.”
Lee Walls is running against incumbent Republican Tom Shepherd for the county surveyor’s nomination in the June 2 primary.
Walls said he heard there was an issue but he is not concerned about it.
“I’m going to leave them on,” he said. “I’m running for a county position.
Vaughn is one of seven Republicans seeking the three nominations for at-large seats on the Madison County Council.
“I’ve heard something about it,” he said.
Vaughn said the issue was researched and there was not a violation of election laws.