Candidate complains about signs

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A Valencia County Commission candidate with a complaint about his challenger's campaign materials may have to literally go tell it to a Marine.

Republican David Hyder, a candidate for the Valencia County Commission District 3 seat, says his primary opponent, Gregory Spragg, is using the U.S. Marine Corps insignia — commonly known as the Eagle, Globe and Anchor — on his campaign materials in violation of trademark law.

Monday evening, Hyder sent a letter to the New Mexico Secretary of State's ethics division, asking the office to determine whether the materials with the insignia are an "unfair and/or illegal endorsement of the United States Marine Corps."

In the letter, Hyder writes that while this violation is not expressly mentioned in the SOS's candidate handbook, the usage of these symbols to promote a political campaign is prohibited and violates U.S. trademark law.

According to the U.S. Marine Corps Division of Public Affairs website, the Eagle Globe and Anchor, Marine Corps seal, initials and name are the exclusive property of the Marine Corps. Permission to use it for commercial retail and advertising is required.

In the website's "frequently asked questions," the subject of whether a former Marine running for political office can use Marine Corps trademarks on campaign material is addressed.

"No, you may not use the official Marine Corps seal, Eagle, Globe and Anchor (EGA), or any other USMC insignia or trademark in this manner, since it might create the impression that your candidacy is endorsed by or affiliated with the USMC in some way, or that the USMC has chosen your candidacy over other candidates," the response reads.

The response continues, saying a candidate can "simply and accurately state that you are a Marine Corps veteran, that's fine, that's a fact. But using the EGA which is a trademark of the USMC, and protected by federal law … is something you may not do. This is consistent with the Marine Corps Uniform Regulations which clearly states that the wearing of the uniform in a political context is strictly prohibited …"

Staff with the Marine Corps' trademark licensing office said use of the insignia on political materials or without permission is a trademark infringement and subject to civil action. If a complaint is made, the office speaks with the candidate, asks them to stop using the image and provides them with an alternate, more "neutral" emblem depicting the raising of the flag at Iwo Jima.

Spragg, who served in the Marine Corps for four years and was part of operation Desert Storm/Desert Shield, said he was unaware he couldn't use the insignia.

"I thought once you earned it, you could use it," Spragg said. "I will look into this and see what we need to do.

" … I am finding it difficult to understand Mr. Hyder questioning my use of an emblem that I have proudly earned and display. I have not been notified by either the Secretary of State or the Marine Corps of any violation that I have committed. Should I be notified by either party that I have committed a violation, I will rectify the situation as quickly as possible."

Hyder could not be reached before press time for further comment. It's not clear whether he filed a complaint only with the state or if he notified the Marine Corps as well.


-- Email the author at jdendinger@news-bulletin.com.