Artist Trademarks Pi and Enrages T-Shirt Designers

by T+B Blog Team on June 4, 2014

A Brooklyn street artist has been granted a trademark for the Greek letter Pi in what could be the biggest ever legal case involving the mathematical constant. The artist, Paul Ingrisano, is claiming a trademark featuring the Greek letter to be used on t-shirts, jackets, caps, and other apparel, forcing the temporary removal of thousands of items from custom retail site Zazzle. The site sells a number of “π” themed t-shirts in its online store.

Wired was among the first to report on the trademark, which was filed with the USPTO in late January. The trademark for “π” followed by a period was registered through the artist’s company, Pi Productions Corp of New York, and is an apparent reference to his initials.

The trademarked symbol is a design Ingrisano uses on t-shirts sold at physical stores, but apparently so does California-based Zazzle from its online site, which offers customers print-on-demand clothing items that feature the letter. When the artist discovered the outlet, he and his attorney, Ronald Millet, sent the company a cease-and-desist letter to the company, insisting on the removal of the t-shirts from the online store.

In the letter, which was sent in May, the artist also requested information about the volume of profits generated from Pi-printed apparel during the time he already owned the trademark, giving Zazzle 14 days to respond. Zazzle eventually decided not to involve itself in a lawsuit and put a temporary ban on garments featuring the 3,000-year-old letter instead.

The move prompted swift reaction by sellers on Zazzle’s forum, with many expressing their annoyance and refusal to accept that their designs infringe on the trademark, Business Insider said.

Can you think of any other widely used symbols that are registered trademarks?

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