It’s a Greek letter! It’s a transcendental number! It’s trademarked!

An artist has trademarked the Greek letter π with a period after it, i.e. “π.”  He has now sent copyright [sic] cease-and-desist letters to manufacturers of nerdy t-shirts. From (link previous):

At issue is U.S. trademark registration 4,473,631, issued to one Paul Ingrisano, aka “Pi Productions Corp” of New York. In January, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office gave Ingrisano a trademark on the symbol π.—pi followed by a period—a design Ingrisano uses on T-shirts sold at some brick-and-mortar stores.

Obviously, the USPTO has been falling down on the job.  While trademarks have encompassed sounds (e.g. the NBC chimes), colours, and common words (e.g. Wendy’s or Burger King for hamburger chains). In theory, Ingrisano could have used the trademark “pi” for something completely unrelated to either the Greek letter or mathematical symbol – for example, “Pi Candy” or “Pi Movie Productions.” But it is patently (get it? patently?) absurd for him to trademark something that is both a letter in a foreign language and a mathematical symbol.  It would be like trademarking “e.”

Furthermore, the touchstone of trademarks is to reduce or eliminate confusion as to the source of goods in a marketplace.  T-shirts and such with “pi” on them have been ubiquitous long before Ingrisano was born.  As “π” does not signify to consumers that goods purchased in interstate commerce came from Igrisano’s company, it is not a valid trademark.

The trademark application only states that this is the letter pi, followed by a period, that is trademarked.  While some companies may temporarily stop production of their “pi” products, the far more likely result is that someone will happily take on the lawsuit – because Ingrisano had the lack of wisdom to do this at almost the exact time that a patent troll was ordered to pay costs to the defendants in a lawsuit.

Okay, and I’m still laughing about the fact that one Ronald Millett, Esq. of West Islep, New York, not only took this “case,” but cannot tell the difference between trademark and copyright infringement.



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Filed under Law, Nerdiness

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