Lone Peak PD threatens to sue Roy PD over uniform patch design

Posted at 8:51 PM, Apr 14, 2014
and last updated 2014-04-15 00:07:26-04

ROY -- Apparently, imitation is not always the sincerest form of flattery.

The Lone Peak Police Department is threatening to sue the Roy Police Department for copyright infringement, accusing Roy PD of stealing its uniform patch design.

"We started with a new administration over the last eight months and decided that as part of that change, we'd come up with a new patch," said Roy Police Lt. Kevin Smith.

That new patch included several possible designs, including one that looks awfully similar to the one that belongs to the Lone Peak Police Department, which serves the Alpine-Highland area.

Smith said they looked at a number of designs before settling on the one with four mountain peaks and the words "police" and "Roy City" in yellow.

"I didn't know it was Lone Peak's, but I'm sure -- apparently -- the design was actually similar," he told FOX 13 on Monday.

Lone Peak police apparently felt the design was too similar. FOX 13 obtained a copy of a cease-and-desist letter sent by an intellectual property attorney hired by the Lone Peak Police Department to Roy's police chief, city manager and mayor.

"It has come to our attention that the Roy City Police Department has misappropriated and copied the LPPD design and converted it for your own purposes," wrote Matthew Barlow of the intellectual property law firm Workman Nydegger.

In the letter, Barlow claimed Roy PD's use of Lone Peak's patch design "is likely to confuse, mislead, or deceive the consuming public as to the source of Roy City Police Department's services or into believing that Roy City Police Department enjoys the sponsorship or approval of, or is in some way connected or affiliated with Lone Peak PD."

Barlow also wrote that Lone Peak PD has "substantial copyright and common law trademark rights in the LPPD design." He threatens to sue the Roy City Police Department unless it immediately ceases to use their uniform patches.

Smith said he was surprised by the cease-and-desist letter.

"It was something I'd never seen before," he told FOX 13. "Yeah, a little bit of a surprise."

Barlow did not return messages seeking comment. A Lone Peak Police Department spokesman declined to comment Monday on the letter or any threatened litigation.

Civil attorney Tanya Peters with the firm Richards Brandt Miller & Nelson (who is not connected to this case) said it is unusual for one police agency to threaten another with litigation over something like this.

"Typically, it's something that you might see if a city was looking to protect its particular brand or logo or message," she said. "But something like a police patch that's worn on a shoulder -- that isn't something that typically connotes a city's message in the eyes of people who view it. It's strange. You could see it as overkill."

Patch collectors FOX 13 spoke with noted that many agencies borrow elements of different designs from each other, and only a few go so far as to copyright their patch. Lone Peak's patch does not include the familiar copyright "c" or the "TM." Peters said that may make it difficult if the case were to go to court, with the cost of taxpayer-funded litigation outweighing the damages to be awarded.

"If they don't register their copyright, they still can collect damages," Peters said. "They're just limited on what they can collect."

Rather than fight it, the Roy Police Department said it had removed the patches from officers' uniforms.

"We certainly don't want to cause anybody any trouble," Smith said.