The trademark life of Pi

PIRemember pi or π? That odd number (3,14159…) use to measure the perimeter and area of a circle? Who knew it would lead to a crazy trademark battle?

That little symbol has been trademarked. Why, would you say? How is it possible to trademark a mathematical symbol. Well, simple. You can claim the symbol for specific goods or services. At least, the US Patent and Trademarks Office thought so.

One Brooklyn artist managed to get the trademark because he uses the symbol on shirts his company makes, and no one’s really happy about it…, because he’s suing the hell out of everyone.

Artist Paul Ingrisano obtained the trademark in January 2014. This lead to him suing t-shirt webshop Zazzle to take down every single product they were selling with the pi-symbol on it. Even one man’s “π + e =  pie” t-shirt was taken down. It impacted thousands of products, according to Zazzle.

After much outcry, Zazzle decided to restore all products that had been removed for making use of Pi on Friday. “After reviewing the take-down request more closely, Zazzle has decided to restore ‘Pi’ products as of today,” wrote the company in a Zazzle forum. “Zazzle is a marketplace for a community of artists, and we want to continue to support artists who are creating original artwork.” By Monday, 5,338 different products were being returned under the search term “Pi” on Zazzle.

While many were pleased by Zazzle’s decision to ignore the cease and desist letter from Ingrisano’s lawyer, the design community is now keeping a close eye on the artist. Several Zazzle forum users have made note of the fact that Ingrisano also has a pending trademark registration for the use of “I<3” — which means “I love” in netspeak.

This could get ugly. Especially, because we at <3 π. We really love pie!

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Erwin Hauër

“Hope is not a strategy.”



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