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Math The Courts Your Rights Online

Zazzle.com Thinks Depictions of Pi Are Protected Intellectual Property 264

Posted by Soulskill
from the attention-i-have-trademarked-the-space-between-letters-please-stop-using-it dept.
Byteme writes: "A number of Zazzle.com users have had their art and products removed from the site after a man named Paul Ingrisano was granted a trademark for 'Pi Productions' using a logo that consists of this freely available version of the pi symbol from the Wikimedia website combined with a period. He made infringement claims against several websites, and Zazzle took down many clothing products that featured designs using the pi symbol. When users called them on it, they locked a public forum thread and said they're evaluating Ingrisano's complaint."
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Zazzle.com Thinks Depictions of Pi Are Protected Intellectual Property

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  • damn (Score:5, Funny)

    by zlives (2009072) on Friday May 30, 2014 @12:23PM (#47129463)

    i better get to work on my "/." logo copy right

    • I guess Paul Ingrisano will go after those Greeks in the EU next?
      • by Mirar (264502)

        EU actually have comparably working IP laws. And we point and laugh at your problems.

        That is, unless they get something like ACTA through EU parliament. Then we'll have it too.

        • You can laugh only if you don't have a business in the USA.

      • by NotDrWho (3543773)

        Delta Airlines to sue the shit out of mathematicians and Greeks!

    • by Frosty Piss (770223) * on Friday May 30, 2014 @01:57PM (#47130303)

      Paul Ingrisano
      1933 73rd street
      Brooklyn, NY 11204

      Apperently, he's an arteeest.

    • by Tablizer (95088)

      i better get to work on my "/." logo copy right

      Every image of a pool game will be taken down.

  • by swschrad (312009) on Friday May 30, 2014 @12:25PM (#47129473) Homepage Journal

    God invented Pi. don't get his lawyers into this...

    • by Infoport (935541) on Friday May 30, 2014 @12:41PM (#47129641)
      You would think so, but unfortunately all the good lawyers went somewhere else...
    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 30, 2014 @12:42PM (#47129645)

      God invented Pi. don't get his lawyers into this...

      God has no lawyers. They're all in Hell.

      • by ja (14684)
        Hell is empty - all the devils are here.
      • by sootman (158191) on Friday May 30, 2014 @03:53PM (#47131479) Homepage Journal

        Good old joke:

        An Engineer died and went to see St. Peter who told him that he was sorry but could not let the engineer into heaven. At first the conditions bothered the engineer but after a while he started to make improvements. He added an escalator, running water, and after a couple of months even air conditioning. Of course eventualy God heard about the changes down below. God phoned up the devil and explained that a mistake had been made and that the engineer would have to be moved up to heaven. The devil said no, because he liked the changes too. God told the devil "This is your last chance. Send that engineer up here or I'll sue you!" The devil laughed and said "Ha, where are you going to find a lawyer?"

    • Re:Prior Art Exists. (Score:5, Informative)

      by i kan reed (749298) on Friday May 30, 2014 @12:46PM (#47129683) Homepage Journal

      Actually, the greeks invented the symbol being held as IP.

      • by ackthpt (218170) on Friday May 30, 2014 @12:57PM (#47129775) Homepage Journal

        Paul desperately needs to be kicked into a large, deep pit while someone shouts, "This is Sparta" or suchlike.

      • by gstoddart (321705)

        Actually, the greeks invented the symbol being held as IP.

        Well, the Greek alphabet is based on the Phoenecian [wikipedia.org] alphabet, so possibly even older than that.

        • by ackthpt (218170)

          Actually, the greeks invented the symbol being held as IP.

          Well, the Greek alphabet is based on the Phoenecian [wikipedia.org] alphabet, so possibly even older than that.

          Nearly as old as Beer?!? That's awesome.

          • by gstoddart (321705)

            Nearly as old as Beer?!? That's awesome.

            I'm not sure there's much about humans which is nearly as old as beer ... a lot of people think beer is why humans started farming in the first place. ;-)

    • by ackthpt (218170)

      Greeks invented the Pi character, it's in their alpha bet and much older than Paul the Trademark Troll.

    • by Mirar (264502)

      Quick, someone inform the churches. There's lots of money in this.

  • by O('_')O_Bush (1162487) on Friday May 30, 2014 @12:26PM (#47129485)
    If the trademark has a period, and the clothing designs etc do not, how does Dazzle justify that being a trademark infringement?

      Because if that is legal, I am going to trademark ng on red signs with STOP on them and sue the gov't for using something too similar.
    • by Luthair (847766) on Friday May 30, 2014 @12:40PM (#47129629)
      Zazzle is probably erring on the side of not getting sued.
      • by Frosty Piss (770223) * on Friday May 30, 2014 @01:33PM (#47130085)

        Zazzle is probably erring on the side of not getting sued.

        By someone who probably can't afford a decent lawyer to bring a case that would be quickly tossed out of court?

        No, Zazzle is simply a bunch of lazy ass wipes.

        Solution: Don't use their site. I certainly never have....

        • by jythie (914043)
          Defending is typically more expensive then brining a suit, so even if the individual does not have the resources to make things really difficult for them, the potential for having to respond to a case probably still gives them pause, esp if they person plays some jurisdiction tricks. An individual with too much free time and a little legal knowledge can wage a pretty asymmetric attack which, while harmless to big companies, can really drain smaller ones.
          • Defending is typically more expensive then brining a suit

            Brining a suit would actually be pretty cheap.

            A bucket of water, a few cups of salt, a few cups of sugar. I'd probably leave it overnight. :-)

      • by mpe (36238)
        Presumably their products are now free of unsaturated organic compounds :)
        Though they'll be in real trouble if someone pulls the same trick with Sigma.
    • If the trademark has a period, and the clothing designs etc do not, how does Dazzle justify that being a trademark infringement?

      The question with trademarks is not, "are they exactly the same?" The question is, "are they close enough that people would get confused?"

      This is different than patents, where it must follow the exact rules laid out in the claims.

      It is also different than copyright, where even if it looks completely different, it still might be a derivative work.

      • by jfengel (409917)

        As I read the application, it doesn't even require the period. It's confusingly written, as it says "The literal element of the mark consists of PI." where the period is part of the sentence, not the mark, and the mark is described simply as "PI", with no period. The images all depict the period, though what's being trademarked is the character, not the image; it is not restricted about font, color, size, or style. One image depicts the actual letters P and I, with no period.

        The domain is "athletic apparel"

    • by jythie (914043)
      What they think is not the dominant factor. They generally have less risk if they comply and then people fight then if they ignore or discount an IP claim since then the complainer could potentially claim they are not honoring safe harbor and get the actual law involved. By complying (as a private site) they keep things internal and the legal system off their back.
    • I dont think you understand how trademarks work.

      You can trademark things that exist in the real world, and have been around forever; Microsoft has trademarked "Windows" in the context of computing. That doesnt mean they can sue anyone with a window, or even anyone who used "Windows" commercially; it would have to meet the criteria for trademark infringement, which includes being in the same industry and being potentially misleading to consumers.

  • by MobyDisk (75490) on Friday May 30, 2014 @12:27PM (#47129497) Homepage
  • by snsh (968808) on Friday May 30, 2014 @12:30PM (#47129531)

    The original deep link to USPTO.GOV is broken. Are we talking about registration# 4473631? That specifically covers the stylized "pi mathematical symbol followed by a period." There is no exclusive right given for the symbol pi by itself or in other contexts.

    • Shari on her blog [ribbitsandtiaras.com] has a cached image [wordpress.com]

    • Also see:

      http://tsdr.uspto.gov/#caseNum... [uspto.gov]

      The summary REALLY needs to also link to:

      TMEP Trademark Manual of Examining Procedure April 2014
      1202.17(b) Reviewing Marks Containing Symbols
      http://tmep.uspto.gov/RDMS/det... [uspto.gov]

    • by marciot (598356) on Friday May 30, 2014 @01:15PM (#47129929)

      That specifically covers the stylized "pi mathematical symbol followed by a period."

      Oh dear. I guess we'll have to fix all textbooks to remove infringing uses of pi at the end of a sentence..

      Example of infringing use:

      The ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter is .

      Non-infringing alternatives:

      The ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter is !
      The ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter is :)
      , what the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter is.

       

    • Re:Which trademark? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Jason Levine (196982) on Friday May 30, 2014 @01:16PM (#47129943)

      This is the trademark: http://tsdr.uspto.gov/#caseNumber=85785006&caseType=SERIAL_NO&searchType=statusSearch [uspto.gov]

      It's for the Pi symbol followed by a period. Literally. "The mark consists of the pi mathematical symbol followed by a period." So if I had a shirt that said "I like Pi." (using the symbol for Pi), my shirt would be in violation of his trademark. Furthermore, he might try claiming that just showing Pi by itself would be "confusingly similar." Not that he'd be successful, but he could threaten lawsuits which might make others back down due to an inability to fight a legal battle.

      He's also filed for the common Internet "I Love" shorthand: I <3 http://tsdr.uspto.gov/#caseNumber=85481027&caseType=SERIAL_NO&searchType=statusSearch [uspto.gov]

      As he doesn't currently seem to be USING these trademarks at all, he should automatically lose all rights to them.

      • by gstoddart (321705) on Friday May 30, 2014 @01:49PM (#47130237) Homepage

        So if I had a shirt that said "I like Pi." (using the symbol for Pi), my shirt would be in violation of his trademark.

        Except, it wouldn't.

        The trademark prevents you from using it as a clothing brand identifier.

        Having it be incidentally used on clothing is not infringing. This guy seems to think it is, but it doesn't work that way.

        I don't think he's got a leg to stand on, but the problem with this stuff is it costs time and money in the form of lawyers to prove that.

        This is just further evidence the USPTO are morons.

        • It might not infringe, but if he filed a trademark infringement lawsuit against you - presumably in a district where you would need to travel a great distance to attend the court sessions - for selling "I love pi." shirts, would you spend the time and money to fight the lawsuit or just stop selling the shirts?

          Most people would just stop selling the shirts as the revenue from the shirts would be less than the cost of fighting the lawsuit.

          • by gstoddart (321705)

            And this is why we have patent/copyright trolls ... a broken legal framework, coupled with a broken legal system, and no real penalties against people who file blatantly abusive lawsuits.

            And people wonder why everyone thinks lawyers should all be killed.

      • These are times when i wish I had a lot of money jsut so i could break this asshole in court.
  • Fraternities ... mathematicians ... physicists ... the universe.

    Whatever moron gave a trademark on the symbol for pi should be staked to an anthill.

    • by gstoddart (321705)

      After receiving a honey enema.

    • There's no required approval for a trademark.

      A registed trademark needs approval. Who does so depends upon country. But not all trademarks are registered. A non-registered trademark is claimed simply by using it, declaring it a trademark and putting the little (tm) symbol after it.

      • by gstoddart (321705)

        There's no required approval for a trademark.

        Then why on Earth would it have any legal standing?

        If your trademark is non-registered, I should think you've legally got nothing.

        Otherwise you could decree anything is a trademark and sue anybody you like, and there would be no legal basis for determining if you're full of shit.

  • Anyone notice... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by barlevg (2111272) on Friday May 30, 2014 @12:37PM (#47129601)
    his initials, Paul Ingrisano
    • Uh, yeah, I think we got that. But I am skeptical that this gives him proprietary rights to a symbol created something like 3000 years ago.

      • by oodaloop (1229816)
        Uh, actually, I didn't get it until barlevg pointed it out. Yes, I feel stupid.
      • by zlives (2009072)

        following the OPs logic, Peter Inserter (real name i swear) can now file for similar rights and sue Paul Ingrisano, since prior art doesn't seem to be a consideration

    • his initials, Paul Ingrisano

      I think Thomas Magnum would like a word with him.

  • Paul Ingrisano also owns "I 3" ..... Yeah ok.
  • This guy is seriously trademarking the common shorthand for "I love" next: I 3

    First Pi (with a period after it) and now I 3. What other common symbols will he attempt to trademark? LOL? RTFA? HTTP?

  • You can't copyright or patent math, but it seems you can trademark it!
  • Zazzle.com (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cstacy (534252) on Friday May 30, 2014 @01:01PM (#47129809)

    Zazzle.com. A web site that I've never heard of before, but won't ever be visiting...

  • So all i need to do is copyright the most commonly used letter, and i'm set for life.

    I officially, in public forum, claim the letter E, and any commonly known permutations of it, as my own, and i reserve all rights for its use. Pay up suckers.

  • Ma Bell, "AT&T" to the unwashed, used a symbol of a bell in a cricle. They never trade marked it. Then some jack ass trade marked it. AT&T lost the case. I think wistle butt just may a leg to stand on, if a letter can be trade marked.
  • by El Rey (61125)

    All your homework are belong to us.

  • by American Patent Guy (653432) on Friday May 30, 2014 @02:56PM (#47130881) Homepage

    I can understand how many in this community would think that because a trademark (or copyright) has been registered, the registrant has "carte blanche" to use it and prohibit others from using it. That is, after all, how domain registrations work...

    What a registration really is is the filing and recognition of a CLAIM to ownership rights. The USPTO does do a search to make a determination of its own as to whether the registrant has any rights in a trademark, but that is far, far from conclusive. There are examples in the caselaw where some unknown guy out in the middle of Iowa has been using an unregistered trademark, someone else comes along later registering that same or a similar trademark (innocently and coincidentally), and the registrant can't stop the little guy from continuing his use. What the registration does is to put the world on notice of the intent of the registrant to use the registered trademark, and give him an avenue against parties who come along later wanting to use it. The registrant still has to prove in court that it has ownership rights, EVEN THOUGH it has registered the trademark.

    So this "PI." trademark could be attacked in a number of ways. It could be that the registrant really hasn't used (or continued to use) it in the marketplace. The symbol is arguably so generic that trademark rights cannot be had. Sometimes trademark rights are restricted to one field of use, and others get to use it for something else. And, from the example above, it could be that the alleged infringers started using the symbol before the registrant did.

    So what our legal system prescribes is that Zazzle and their suppliers go consult with their own attorneys, competent in trademark law, and decide whether they need to change their products. That's what lawyers are for...

  • by Dixie_Flatline (5077) <vincent,jan,goh&gmail,com> on Friday May 30, 2014 @03:50PM (#47131451) Homepage

    I'm friends with some artists, and the problem with Zazzle (and many other sites like them) is that actually stolen content gets submitted all the time, and they probably got sick of getting 1000 emails from an artist and all of that artist's fans for someone effectively stealing a design and submitting it as their own.

    This guy doesn't have a leg to stand on, but it doesn't mean that nobody ever has a reason to complain. The reality is that the internet is a place where people try and pass things off as their own constantly. That's bad enough, but when someone starts making money off of your art--your original, actual art--it becomes really damaging to you. People start thinking YOUR design is the fake, even though it's the original. It sucks.

    So yeah, this is lame and bit lazy, but not immediately responding to an infringement notice is also lame and lazy.

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