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 is ridiculous asshattery that shouldn’t be allowed to continue.”

    1. Byron – I think the Obama administration took out a trademark on ‘asshattery’

  2. What about all those fraternities and sororities that use pi? I guess Pi Phi is going to have to recall all its shirts.

    What is absurd is that this is actually going through the court system, instead of being immediately thrown out as nonsense.

  3. J.T.: “The real question is how the American people will proceed in the face of this ridiculous growth of trademark and copyright claims”

    JT, the problem here is simply that the American people have nothing to say in the matter. Oh, we can make a lot of noise about trademark infringement and copyright claims, but in the final analysis it’s like the concept of the petition. If the people in power are not inclined to change things, petitions are just so much paper and any effort is useless. Sort of like Congress in general.

  4. And I say….. That’s a BIG load of B.S………………

  5. The current thinking in Redneckville is Pi r not squared

    Pi r round

    Cornbread r squared!

  6. dmg;

    I’m against classifying all; due to the vexing by – even the many.

    i.e. – Professor Turley (and I know many good others like Rick Convertino)

  7. A neighbor up the street claims to have the trademark on the name Paul.

    1. Helen – well, I am going to violate that trademark, too. 🙂

  8. The dollar store industry was basically a brand name, trademark, logo etc., knock-off kingdom. When I asked an attorney what justifies an infringement litigation; I became amazed at documentation of how the process breaks down.

    It must be a similar industry (Such as Post cereal can’t be sued by NY Post); and there must be a breach that can be cured simply.

    We had rented out an old Dairy Queen in Milford, DE – across the street from a brand new Walmart. And I named our store Malmart Jr.

    One day 3 cars of counsels, showed up, with cease letter in hand. (You couldn’t fit all 7 people and us into our store). I explained to the guys/gal that they didn’t own the word “mart” (Kmart, Savmart etc.); and that my store was 900 sg feet and the store across the street was 40,000. Plus, I sold only bankruptcies, liquidations, closeouts and salvages.

    When the leader of the pack stated that by flipping the M over to a W, it was an obvious infraction – and it is retailing that is germane; I questioned if I might quote him on that – saying I’d love the publicity that Walmart actually considered me their “Jr”.

    Never heard from them again.

    If losing side must pay legal fees and costs of the other side;
    one would think that is the only corrective measure needed!

  9. I am going to violate their at every occasion. This is going to through the math books into an uproar.

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  11. Reblogged this on This Got My Attention and commented:
    It would be nice if these trademark applicants, such as the alleged artist in this article, offered even just a smidgen of creativity in their claims. And if not creativity how about a little humor?

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