Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr.’s campaign can continue to use a disputed apple logo after a Montgomery County Circuit Court judge declined a request for a preliminary injunction from the Maryland State Education Association.
MSEA, which represents 74,000 teachers in the state, sought an injunction to immediately stop the Hogan campaign’s use of a red apple and the phrase “Teachers for Hogan.” Union representatives said Monday that they would continue to pursue the case in court.
In issuing the ruling, Judge Michael D. Mason said the evidence presented so far in the case didn’t rise to the level required for a preliminary injunction. MSEA can present additional evidence in further proceedings, though no decision would come until after Election Day.
Mason said MSEA has so far not established a widely known secondary meaning for their use of a red apple – a generic image – in conjunction with candidate endorsements to secure protection under Maryland’s common law. The judge also said MSEA’s infringement claims in this case – over “Teachers for Hogan” bumper stickers and social media logos – differ from past disputes over the organization’s so-called Apple Ballots, which have at least some recognition in Montgomery County, where the Montgomery County Education Association holds federal service mark registrations for two things: the outline of an apple and the phrase “teacher recommended.”
In weighing where irreparable harm might occur as the result of his decision, Mason said it was with the Hogan campaign, which should be able to publicize support the governor’s re-election bid has from at least some teachers in the state, if not by the union’s official endorsement.
MSEA endorsed Democrat Ben Jealous during his party’s primary; Hogan did not take part in the organization’s endorsement process this year.
After the hearing MSEA leaders issued a statement indicating they will pursue a permanent injunction, even if after Election Day.
“We remain confident in the merits of our case and that the Court will ultimately decide, after fully considering the matter during the next stage of the proceedings, that Governor Hogan’s campaign has infringed on our registered trademark,” MSEA spokesman Adam Mendelson said. “As we have done in previous elections with candidates regardless of party, we will continue to defend our registered trademark of an apple in connection with phrases that imply the political endorsement of educators or teachers.”
The union and Hogan have clashed during the governor’s first term over education policy, including funding decisions, something Jealous pointed out in a statement released from his campaign late Monday.
“While I am disappointed in the court’s ruling today, I applaud educators in the Maryland State Education Association for standing up to protect their voice from Larry Hogan’s bullying campaign tactics,” Jealous said in a written statement. “It was wrong of him to attack our educators this way and mislead the public about who they have endorsed in this campaign. Unfortunately, this is the kind of behavior we have come to expect from a governor who has called teachers ‘thugs’ and cut school funding by nearly $100 million.”
Mason also denied an earlier request from the union for a temporary injunction.
The Hogan campaign also responded to Mason’s decision.
“We’re grateful for the court’s ruling today. It permits our campaign and many teachers across Maryland to continue using a longstanding and universally known symbol for education, the apple, as part of their expression of support for Governor Hogan’s re-election,” a statement read. “The court has denied the union’s demand for an injunction twice in the last ten days, so we hope the union now will bring this matter to a swift conclusion.”
The campaign added that October is recognized by the U.S. Apple Association as “Apple Month” and that the governor plans to visit the Darlington Apple Festival in Harford County this coming weekend.