Local country radio station U.S. 95.7 has a blue-and-red shield logo that resembles an interstate freeway sign. That's a problem.
"The actual route shield is trademarked by a group called the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials," says Caltrans attorney Jeffrey Joseph. "The reason I know this is because there was a strip club in Riverside called Club 215. They were using the 215 route shield. [The association] wrote them a letter and said, 'Cease and desist because you're using our trademark.' "
According to the state Outdoor Advertising Act, Clear Channel--owned 95.7 was in violation two years ago when its billboards displayed the shield logo near freeways. The billboards, along Interstate 8 in Mission Valley and the University Avenue exit off the 163, promoted morning DJs Tony and Kris. The station painted over the emblem.
A spokesman for the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, Shane Artim, says he wasn't aware that 95.7 was using the route shield as its logo. Artim points out that the Washington, D.C.--based association, which represents the highway and transportation departments from all 50 states, allows for use of the logo when compensated.
"For example," says Artim, "the shield logo is going to be used in a Pixar movie coming out in the summer."
Caltrans' Joseph isn't so much concerned about possible trademark violation; Caltrans' only interest is that commercial signs don't confuse drivers.
"If they're not next to the freeway, it's not going to create any motorist confusion problem," says Joseph. "At this point, I would tell you it's between U.S. 95.7 and the [association]."
Current billboard promotions for 95.7 prominently feature the shield logo, but they aren't located next to freeways or on-ramps.