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MMA Returns "Check Twice - Save a Life" to Public Domain!

Published on 3/12/2014

MMA Returns "Check Twice - Save a Life" to Public Domain!

The Massachusetts Motorcycle Association (MMA) released to its membership today that its Board-of-Directors has unanimously voted to return the slogan, “Check Twice – Save a Life, Motorcycles are Everywhere” to the public domain after significant consideration.

Created by one of its original chairman, Bob Doiron in 1982, the slogan, “Check Twice – Save a Life, Motorcycles are Everywhere!” has been synonymous with the MMA and its Safety & Education Programs.  The program has been a cornerstone of the MMA’s annual “Safety Awareness Period” and the signs and bumper stickers have been widely recognized.  In the early years, the vast majority of those signs were adorned with the MMA logo and the sponsor who purchased them, usually either an insurance company or motorcycle dealership, although there have been others.

"Check Twice - Save a Life" Bumper Sticker circa late 1980's

Over the past several years, stickers, shirts, and lawn signs have begun propping up with other logos which caused the MMA to take the additional step of trademarking the slogan, a process which began in 2010.  After consultation with Mr. Doiron by the then MMA Business Manager, and with legal counsel, public notice was made and others concerned were told of the steps being taken.  Over the intervening process, no challenge to the trademark request was made.  Upon formal receipt of the trademark, the MMA began protecting the mark as required by federal law, informing all known users of the mark that they must include the official registered trademark on all representation of the slogan.  In all cases, users were granted permission to use the slogan with the appropriate attribution, with no monetary consideration due the MMA so long as the slogan was used to benefit motorcyclists and not for personal gain.

All but one recipient of the request letters complied. That one recipient, Paul Cote of Amesbury, MA, instead claimed “ownership” of a copyright, having purchased it from Mr. Bob Doiron. As noted previously, Mr. Doiron is a past MMA Chairman, and part of the original consultation process concerning the trademark, even stating to the then Business Manager that free use was always his intent.  Mr. Cote was also one of those initially sent notification of the Trademark since he had been one of the slogan’s users.

Mr. Cote refused to comply with the request to incorporate the trademark, despite being offered the same terms as other users.  Mr. Cote further claimed that he “purchased the copyright” to the slogan from Mr. Doiron, for which proof of said transaction was never provided.  The MMA disputes this claim since under US Federal Copyright Law, a slogan cannot be copyrighted, and that Mr. Cote was given fair opportunity to dispute the trademark before it was granted. Attempts to compromise with Mr. Cote were rebuffed and met with outrageous demands by him, and the dispute remained in the hands of the US Patent and Trademark Office.

Although the MMA did retain legal counsel at minimal expense for the process of the trademark and for discussion with Mr. Cote, the MMA Board of Directors discussed the situation and the proceedings over the course of several meetings.  In the context of the slogan, although widely recognized, the Board felt that it was becoming “long in the tooth”, and was too wordy for today’s audience.  After discussing the costs to continue to defend the trademark, the Board unanimously voted to initially offer the trademark at no expense to Mr. Cote,  something he refused, and then instead, returned the trademark to the public domain, where it rightly belongs.

The MMA Board always believed the “Check Twice” slogan should be freely available and used for the benefit of Motorcyclists everywhere.  By returning it to the public domain, this allows it to fulfill its intended purpose.

The MMA Board also unanimously voted to adopt a new “publicly available” slogan, which will be announced in the next week along with the 2014 Massachusetts Motorcycle Safety Awareness Period.

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