As Texans, we take great pride in the symbols of our great state - the Lone Star Flag, the Alamo, the Texas State Seal, and so on. It is a reflection of the esteem in which we hold these symbols that thousands of Texas businesses choose to include them in their name or use them as part of their logo.
We all realize that there is a proper way to treat these symbols to show reverence and respect. For example, we all know there is a proper way to fold the flag. There are proper rules for the State Seal of Texas as well. Though many people are unaware of it, commercial use of the state seal is regulated by law. The Secretary of State is the agency charged with keeping the state seal and enforcing regulations passed by the legislature regarding its use. This includes the reverse of the state seal as well as the state arms.
Most people recognize the front, or obverse, of the state seal, which shows a five-pointed star flanked by live oak and olive branches and wrapped by the words, "the State of Texas". The reverse of the state seal contains images of the Alamo, the cannon from the Battle of Gonzales and Vince's Bridge from San Jacinto. These images are surrounded by the six flags that have flown over Texas. At the top of the reverse is the five-pointed star and underneath are the words, "Texas one and indivisible". The state arms closely resembles the obverse of the seal, but includes only the star, live oak and olive branches.
As the Secretary of State, I wanted to address some of those regulations that are relevant to the Texas business community. One of the most important is that in order to use any of these images for a private commercial purpose, it is necessary to obtain a license from the Secretary of State's office. Although this office has the authority to issue a license for a commercial use of the state seal, not all commercial uses are appropriate for licensing. For example, licensing of the state seal for use on a private organization's letterhead, business cards, product brochures or other promotional materials is not in the best interest of the State. If such organizations were allowed to use the state seal in this manner, the public might mistakenly infer that the organization is a governmental entity or an entity over which the government exercises some control.
The application fee for such a license is $35. The fee for the license itself, or the renewal of a license, is $250 dollars. In addition to those fees, the law states that each licensee must pay a royalty fee to the state. The licensee's first $5000 in annual sales related to licensed use are not subject to a fee, however all additional gross receipts are subject to a three percent royalty fee.
The licensee has several other obligations. The license issued by my office must be posted in a visible location within the licensee's place of business. Furthermore, he or she must maintain records relating to the seal's use as required by the Secretary of State's Office. In order to ensure compliance with the terms of the license, those records are subject to examination by my office during reasonable business hours.
In extreme cases, the Secretary of State has the authority to suspend or revoke a license for failure to comply with the rules outlined above. My office can even bring civil action against a licensee. Violating rules and regulations regarding a state seal license constitutes a Class C misdemeanor.
We realize, of course, that the vast majority of Texas business owners who make use of the state seal are law abiding and have the very best of intentions. We also realize that many of them may not be aware of the rules and regulations governing the use of the Texas State Seal. It is my hope that this column will serve to raise awareness on this issue.
Texas business owners wishing to know more about the statutes and regulations governing the use of the Texas State Seal can contact my office at 512-475-0775. Additional information as well as the forms necessary to request a license can also be found by visiting our agency web site.
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