Use of the Great Seal

Image of Coat of arms superimposed over the Great Seal

By way of defining the proper and legal use of The Great Seal, it must first be noted that the Michigan Constitution of 1963 provides in Article 3, section 3, "There shall be a great seal of the State of Michigan and its use shall be provided by law."

 

As a result of this constitutional provision, the use of the Great Seal is regulated at some length by state law. The Great Seal Act [1963 PA 19 (2nd Ex. Sess.), MCL 2.41 et seq.] provides that Michigan shall have a Great Seal, and that the Great Seal shall be comprised of the coat-of-arms around which appear the words "great seal of the state of Michigan, A.D. MDCCCXXXV". Section 4 of the Act [MCL 2.44] identified 15 types of state documents that are eligible to receive an impression of the Great Seal. The seal may not be used on any other documents. Indeed, the Attorney General's Office has opined that the executive departments of Michigan state government may not use a facsimile of the Great Seal on their departmental letterheads or bulletins.


Section 5 of the Act [MCL 2.45] further regulates the use of the Great Seal. This section states that no facsimile or reproduction of the Great Seal may be used in any manner unconnected with the official business of the state. Section 6 [MCL 2.46] indicates that a violation of the Great Seal Act is a misdemeanor.


On the other hand, use of the coat-of-arms is less regulated. The Coat-of-Arms and Flag Act [1911 PA 209, MCL 2.21 et seq.] describes the state coat-of-arms and flag. Section 6 of this law directs persons printing and circulating official state documents to place the coat-of-arms on those documents.


The Michigan Penal Code [1931 PA 238, MCL 750.1 et seq.] also addresses use of the coat-of-arms. Section 246 of the Code [MCL 750.246] prohibits mutilating the coat-of-arms. Section 245 [MCL 750.245] prohibits the manufacture and sale, or giving, of articles and merchandise upon which the coat-of-arms is reproduced, to call attention to the article for commercial purposes. Violations of both sections are misdemeanors.


Fortunately, there is statutory exception to the prohibition. Section 247 of the Code [MCL 750.247] indicates that the prohibition does not apply to stationery, printed documents, ornaments, pictures, jewelry, and other productions which depict the coat-of-arms but are unconnected with any advertisement and have no other designs or words thereon.


Based on this exception, private entrepreneurs frequently manufacture and sell a wide variety of products bearing the coat-of-arms. This would include key rings, flags, post cards, lapel pins, coloring books and bottle openers.

 

If you would like to request a camera-ready copy of the Coat of Arms, you may contact the Department of Technology, Management and Budget, Print and Graphic Services, Visual Communications Unit, at 517-322-1889