Talk:United States/Road signs

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Legal issues

We need to know if we may legally include the shield designs in OSM. I'm uncertain what the answer is from a quick, layman's reading of the materials. On the "Go ahead" side of the argument, publications of the US Government are paid for by taxpayers and released to public domain. Also in favour of OSM use, the road signs must be built to published standards Wikipedia:Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices. On the other hand a Wikipedia article suggested that the governing body AASHTO claims copyright on the interstate shield design, and it is a registered Trademark (Registration 835,635). —Preceding unsigned comment added by Rw (talkcontribs) 20:08, 17 December 2006 (UTC)

But the shield is commonly used on many maps, and the purpose of the trademark is to prevent confusing usage on commercial signs. It "has been used several times over the years to prevent or remove Interstate-like signs near the Interstate highways, where they might confuse the traveling public and cause accidents." —Preceding unsigned comment added by Peter K. Sheerin (talkcontribs) 19:40, 4 July 2007 (UTC)

are we talking about trademark or copyright? I think the difference between the two would allow it's use in map products, but not on signs where people would think it indicates a highway. --Korea 14:17, 15 August 2007 (BST)
Correct. The design is trademarked, not necessarily copyrighted. If I understand correctly, there should be no legal encumbrance to mapmakers' use of the Interstate shield for identification of Interstate highways. This is supported by the fact that absolutely every U.S. road map, without significant exception, uses the Interstate shield to mark Interstate highways. If they had to license it from AASHTO, I'm almost sure that its use would not be so widespread on maps. --Marnen 04:38, 3 July 2008 (UTC)


Not an issue. A trademark may always be used truthfully. —Preceding unsigned comment added by RussNelson (talkcontribs) 05:30, 3 August 2009 (UTC)


A trademarked graphic may also be copyrighted, if it has sufficient creativity. This is often claimed because of the difficulty and expense of securing trademark registration for the graphic. By asserting copyright, and then licensing the use of the graphic in the same manner as a trademark, such protection may be garnered. It's not clear how much creativity there can be in a shield, given that a shield has a given shape. Choice of colors? But the USA's flag's colors are red, white, and blue. —Preceding unsigned comment added by RussNelson (talkcontribs) 05:30, 3 August 2009 (UTC)

The U.S. Highway shield was introduced in 1926, and the shape's usage as a federal symbol predates 1923, so the possibility of copyright has expired. The Interstate shield comes from the late 1950s, and, due to U.S. copyright laws of that time, would have had to be registered at the time and later renewed if a copyright was claimed. A search of for American Association of State Highway Officials turns up nothing relevant, and all the evidence elsewhere is that it's only trademarked[1][2], not copyrighted.
As for individual states, the typical fallback for maps (actually used by some states on signs) is a circle. --NE2 10:46, 13 December 2009 (UTC)
Furthermore, many states simply use the state's outline for their shields: such shapes are ineligible for copyright. – Minh Nguyễn (talk, contribs) 21:55, 13 December 2009 (UTC)


Could OSM make different icon backgrounds available for ref tags?

Would something like this work?:

  • k="ref", v="5"
  • k="ref_icon", v="Interstate_narrow"

—Preceding unsigned comment added by Rw (talkcontribs) 20:08, 17 December 2006 (UTC)

Probably this should be chosen by the renderer, e.g. Mapnik/OSMARender, not hardcoded in the OSM data. Mapnik is already parsing the ref/name tag to label some routes, so this shouldn't be an issue. Lordsutch 03:41, 10 July 2008 (UTC)

Interstate Signs

Is this ever going to be implemented? I see it on the MapQuest tiles, but not the standard tiles. --Axiomx11 (talk) 22:02, 21 January 2014 (UTC)

The OpenStreetMap U.S. chapter has a working prototype[3] that handles many more shield designs than MapQuest. The code is available at Launchpad. I'd love to see it incorporated into the standard map. – Minh Nguyễn (talk, contribs) 09:40, 22 January 2014 (UTC)
Good work Minh! Will you be presenting anything at the State Of The Map U.S. 2014 conference? --Axiomx11 (talk) 23:52, 16 February 2014 (UTC)
Actually, I should point out that the Shield Renderer is mostly the work of Phil! Gold and Richard Weait. I just contributed a bit, and of course there are numerous individuals involved in setting up route relations. Phil and Richard have presented at SotM and SotMUS in the past, and I would be disappointed if there weren't something about the shields at SoTMUS this year. – Minh Nguyễn (talk, contribs) 05:55, 24 February 2014 (UTC)