Nearly everyone in Michigan and many others throughout the country have seen the "Pure Michigan" print and television advertisements promoting tourism in our state. When a real estate company based in Lapeer County chose the name Pure Michigan Real Estate Inc. last March, the organization behind those ads responded with a lawsuit.
The Michigan Economic Development Corporation filed a federal suit against the company last November in U.S. District Court in Detroit for using the well-known slogan without its permission. It said that it had been using "Pure Michigan" in its advertising since 2006. The suit asked that the company be ordered to change its name.
Now the company has complied with that request, and MEDC has dropped its lawsuit. The family-owned company is currently going by the name Real Estate Security Corporation. However, a spokesman for the business made it known that they weren't happy with the way the MEDC handled the matter. He said that the state should have made their objection to the name before it licensed the business. He notes that both the state and the MEDC, which is funded by the state "should have addressed that before misleading us and providing a corporate ID, broker licenses, information and support."
Interestingly, MEDC has not taken such legal action against dozens of other companies using the words "Pure Michigan" logo. MEDC's communications director explained that the group actually encourages state businesses to use it. However, the reason for the lawsuit against the real estate business is that by including the logo in its name, they felt that people might be led to believe that their services were affiliated with or approved by the MEDC. While the real estate company is based in North Branch, they say they have plans to eventually do business throughout the state.
Although according to the company, the state had plenty of opportunity to require it to change its name in the early stages of business formation, this situation exemplifies why Michigan businesses need experienced legal professionals who can help them avoid these situations and the costly business litigation that can arise as a result.
Source: MLive Media Group, "State drops Pure Michigan trademark lawsuit against Lapeer County real estate company" Gary Ridley, Jan. 31, 2014