MTA accuses Erie County Clerk of misusing trademark

Local News

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB)–“If you see something, say something,” has been a universal slogan since the September 11, 2001 Attacks on America, but that call to arms is also a trademark protected by law.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority in New York City registered the trademark in 2010, and the MTA is accusing Erie County Clerk Michael Kearns of using the agency’s trademark without legal authorization.

It is a dispute that stems from the state’s new Green Light Law that takes effect this Saturday, and the MTA is accusing Kearns of using the trademark to discourage undocumented aliens from applying for driver’s licenses.

The MTA has sent Kearns a letter, demanding the County Clerk cease and desist his unauthorized use of the trademark immediately.

Kearns challenged the law in court, saying county auto bureaus across New York State lack the expertise to detect fraudulent identification documents from other countries, but Kearns was unsuccessful trying to stop the law from going into effect.

In preparation for implementing the new measure, Kearns said county clerks were supposed to receive guidance from the state Department of Motor Vehicles.

“Where are those regulations to help us promulgate those rules? We are basically sailing–we are building the airplane as we are flying it.”

Kearns has posted “if you see something say something” signs at Erie County auto bureaus with a tipline to federal immigration officials.

But the MTA sent the “cease and desist” letter, demanding Kearns take down the signs and accused the clerk of using the trademark to intimidate undocumented aliens, and is unrelated to fighting terrorism.

Further, if Kearns requests permission to use the trademark, the MTA will deny it. The County Clerk said he will take down the signs in favor of new ones.

“We will make sure that it is not trademarked, that is one thing I will make sure my staff will do. It is terrible that we live in a world that we do not want to know the truth. This was a law enforcement slogan, this was not a political slogan.”

The Niagara County Clerk has also received a similar letter, but Kearns points out other agencies use the “if you see something say something” trademark, including the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).

But those other agencies likely asked for permission first.

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