Court refuses comment on state seal case

Posted: Thursday, October 14, 2004

ANCHORAGE (AP) The U.S. Supreme Court refused Tuesday to intervene in an Alaska court ruling against a man found guilty of a misdemeanor for using the state seal without permission.

The nation's highest court gave no reason for why it decided not to comment on the seven-year-old case.

The state Court of Appeals in January sided with a lower court when it ruled that Scott Robart was guilty of a misdemeanor for using the Alaska state seal on silver commemorative coins that were sold on QVC, the home shopping cable network, in 1997.

A replica of the state seal was on one side and a design commemorating the Gold Rush centennial was on the other.

Robart had wanted the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the lower court decision. He did not immediately return a call for comment Tuesday.

In 1996, Robart, the owner of Commemorative Designs, was invited by someone from the state Department of Commerce and Economic Development to submit one of his products to a national television show featuring Alaska items.

Robart asked the lieutenant governor for permission to use the state seal on the coin. When he didn't get a reply, Robart said he figured it was OK.

The lieutenant governor is the keeper of the state seal.

Robart then got in trouble when John Lindback, the lieutenant governor's chief of staff, just happened to be watching the program when the item was shown.

A few days later, then-Lt. Gov. Fran Ulmer sent Robart a letter telling him that he had to stop selling the coins.

Robart stopped offering the coins to retail stores. But he said then he got a call at home from someone who wanted to buy one.

He agreed to sell the coin, figuring that a coin here and there was no big deal. Robart was selling the coins for $29.95 each.

The caller turned out to be an undercover Alaska State Trooper.

Robart was convicted in April 2002 in District Court of illegally using the seal without permission.

He was fined $250 and given six months unsupervised probation.

Robart's attorney, Matt Claman, was unavailable for comment on Tuesday.

Claman previously has said the state seal falls within the scope of federal copyright law and the state cannot also regulate it.

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