A Piece of The Pi: New York Artist Claims Trademark To Symbol π

140px-pi-symbolsvgWe have long discussed the insane evolution of trademark and copyright laws. Now a New York artist Paul Ingrisano, aka “Pi Productions Corp” of New York is claiming that he holds the trademark to symbol π.—pi followed by a period—a design. It is the perfect irrational trademark claim for the ultimate irrational number.

I have long been a critic of growing copyright and trademark claims over things occurring in public or common phrases or terms. (For a prior column, click here). We have often discussed the abusive expansion of copyright and trademark laws. This includes common phrases, symbols, and images being claimed as private property. (here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here). (For a prior column, click here).

Ingrisano notified California-based print-on-demand outlet Zazzle that its clothing items were in violation of trademark laws because the company falsely assumed that the symbol belong to humanity: “It has been brought to our client’s attention that your business, Zazzle Com/AKA Zazzle Inc., has been using the mathematical symbol ‘pi,’ referred to herein as the ‘PI trademark,’ in association with the marketing or sale of your products or of products offered through your services. . . We have evidence of your unlawful products to preserve as evidence. Accordingly, you are hereby directed to CEASE AND DESIST ALL COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT.”

Amazingly, Zazzle pulled its products involving thousands of different items. The attorney behind the letter Ronald Millet insists that they are within their rights even though none of the designs sold through Zazzle included the exact trademark π.—pi followed by a period. Yet, “Some clearly have a pi sign and look similar enough that folks out there might confuse it with products that my client also sells.”
But Stanford law professor Mark Lemley says Millet is trying to square a circle. A trademark is supposed to be used to brand a company and its products. “If you want to sell T-shirts and on the tag your brand name is the symbol pi, I think that’s a reasonable trademark,” he says. “But if what you want to do is actually prevent people from using the symbol pi on a T-shirt, then I think you’re missing the point of trademark law.”

Millet says that they will decide how to proceed.

The real question is how the American people will proceed in the face of this ridiculous growth of trademark and copyright claims, as discussed in a prior column, click here).

Kudos: Ira Newlander

31 thoughts on “A Piece of The Pi: New York Artist Claims Trademark To Symbol π”

  1. This prompts questions for me:
    1. Is it required that the attorney be paid a fee by Paul Ignorasso to be prosecuted for malpractice?
    2. Can’t Zazzle bill him for all the costs associated with compliance and legal advice caused by this grossly unlawful demand?
    3. Can Zazzle sue THEM first to get a judge in on this extorsion scheme and put sanctions on Mr. Millet? Or do they have to wait patiently for Millet to pay the filing fee?
    4. Can they find a good southern barber to help countersue Millet for infringing the Trademark of the Mullet hair design?

  2. Can anyone help me trademark “Paul.” ? And to send a cease and desist order to Paul ™ Ingrisano ? Seriously.

  3. I’m sure he was seeing Pi after eating that Colorado brownie pie. It’s mine when I have the munchies.

  4. Sometimes I reflect upon the curious question, “Is there any human person who is other than functionally psychotic?”

    What if belief in social norms is the essence of functional psychosis?

    What if functional psychosis is so universal that social norms define, in grievous biological error, functional psychosis as not-psychosis?

    If π. is a trademark, then every mathematics book that has a sentence of the form which ends with “π.” can be adjudicated to be a trademark violation::

    Four times the sum of the alternating Taylor series 1 – 1/3 + 1/5 – 1/7 + 1/9 – 1/11 + 1/13… converges, in the limit as the number of terms approaches infinity, to the numerical value of the ratio of the numerical value of the circumference to the numerical value of the diameter of a plane circle; this numerical value ratio is approximately 3.141592654 (base ten numerical value, to ten significant numerical value figures) and is often represented in mathematical equations by the Greek letter π.

    When did the law become disastrously unintelligible?

  5. Is it infringement if you just think it? I used it to calculate the area of 3 different circles a couple of days ago. Although, come to think of it, I didn’t use the symbol itself, just the value it represents. Whew!

  6. Paul C. Schulte
    I’m looking at infringement rights dating back to… 1801.
    (I know that sounds arbitrary but I gotta start somewhere, yes?)

    I’ve got millions Gazillions riding on this…

  7. I’m going to trademark the word THE…
    … You all will owe me, big time. Mwahahahaha…

    1. Max-1 – I assume you are planning on some sort of licensing arrangement or just collecting from users.

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