What Has the Supreme Court Said About On-premise Signage?

Supreme Court cases that involve on-premise signage The 1st Amendment Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances. […]

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How Does the Copyright Protection of the 1982 Lanham Act Affect Signs?

The Lanham Act, also known as the Trademark Act, was originally passed in 1946. It has been revised several times since then, including 1982, when it was revised by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) to prevent cities/municipalities from requiring businesses to alter federally registered trademarks. Section 1121(b) of the act states: “No state or other jurisdiction of […]

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Is Your Sign Code Content Neutral? Reed v. Gilbert Warns it Should Be

Quite often, sign codes are primarily governed by their definitions. Many of the definitions are about types of signs: temporary, projecting, banners, fascia, freestanding, pole-mounted, etc. Quite often, however, signs are defined by their content: political, real estate, commercial, yard sale, etc. If a sign is blank, you can still tell what kind of sign it […]

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Street Graphics

The following article was written in 2005. In 1971, the American Planning Assn. (APA) began distributing a book by Daniel Mandelker and William Ewald entitled Street Graphics and the Law. That book recommended the uncompensated taking of signs and control of a sign’s design, message and aesthetics. While the sign industry was making great strides […]

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How Broadview Heights, Ohio Ignored Content Neutrality

In terms of ignoring “content neutrality,” call it “North Olmsted, Part II.” The following article, written by FASI Executive Director Wade Swormstedt, originally appeared in the April 2004 issue of Signs of the Times magazine.   Broadview Heights, OH, is roughly 21 miles away from North Olmsted, OH. In terms of First Amendment ignorance (or perhaps […]

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Content Neutrality Violations Noted in Michigan

The landmark content-neutrality/prior-restraint ruling from North Olmsted is cited in Thomas Township. The message cannot determine the medium. With modest apologies to Marshall McLuhan, when the medium is signage, the courts have bestowed kid-glove treatment upon content neutrality, while wholeheartedly endorsing the tenets of North Olmsted (see ST, December 1999, page 52, and April 2000, […]

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Reconciling Santa Monica’s Ban on Pole Signs

The contentious code — which eliminates all pole signs — takes effect This article, written by Jennifer Flinchpaugh, originally appeared in the May 2000 issue of Signs of the Times magazine. No projecting signs. No upper-level signs. No roof signs. And no off-premise signs. Certainly Santa Monica, CA’s sign code, adopted in 1985 and scheduled […]

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North Olmsted’s Prior Restraint and Content-based Sign Code

The following article originally appeared in the December 1999 issue of Signs of the Times magazine. By John Yarger, Esq., and Jennifer Flinchpaugh On Aug. 17, Federal Magistrate Judge Patricia Hemann of Ohio’s Northern District filed her “Report and Recommendations” regarding the North Olmsted Chamber of Commerce vs. City of North Olmsted lawsuit. In her […]

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Sign-Valuation Arguments Thwart Amortization Against Michael’s

Richfield, MN, realized what it might have to pay in just compensation and let Michael’s keep its on-premise billboard The following article originally appeared in the December 1998 issue of Signs of the Times magazine. By John Yarger, Esq. A Michaels crafts store in Richfield, MN, was recently the target of an amortization scheme. On […]

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Illegally Disguising Taxes as Sign-Permit Fees in Texas

Supreme Court Decision Costs Houston More than $2 million The following article originally appeared in the July 1995 issue of Signs of the Times magazine. By Richard Rothfelder On August 26, 1992, A Texas judge held that the City of Houston was unconstitutionally assessing the off-premise sign industry with excessive permit fees. The judgment in Harris […]

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