How the US patent office decided to issue a trademark for the math symbol pi is beyond me, but they did. This page lists the registration which was filed in 2012 and issued in January of this year –
Of course, the reason I know this is that the company who claims ownership of pi contacted the online publisher, Zazzle which hosts my designs and other artist’s designs demanding that all uses of the symbol pi be removed for infringing on their trademark – and Zazzle did just that. However, as disgusting as that is – it also means that any and all uses of the math symbol pi in the public domain are also infringements on their trademark including uses in public talks, written on a chalkboard in any classroom or webcast, put on any coffee mug or tshirt, used by any sorority or fraternity and in fact, where pi is used in any and all equations.
The law about what can be trademarked and that it must be distinctive and original would have never intended that pi be given a trademark registration. It is not copyrightable – and these designs using pi as part of the design by both me and other artists on Zazzle are but one tiny part of where this company can go with their demands to have full ownership of the symbol pi. And, this proves that they will.
Anyone who wants to trademark the plus symbol ought to go ahead and do that too – then we can pay that company to use pi and then pay someone else to do the addition in the problem as well anytime we need to create an equation or write about it or design anything that includes it.
As if it isn’t hard enough to do business in America anyway, I would at least expect our govt offices to protect things that by common sense are in the public domain.
The blog below has another designer discussing the Zazzle company removing their designs today with the pi symbol on them for the same reason that my designs were taken out of the marketplace where pi was included in the design – and it has a number of comments from other artists and designers who were assaulted this way today by this Brooklyn company who claims ownership of the symbol pi in all its iterations and for any use –
I believe that aside from registering a complaint at the US patent and trademark office, anyone who is taking this as absurd and wrong as I believe it is – needs to get a message to any and all sororities and fraternities whose name includes pi – before they are sued for using it on a tshirt or sweatshirt by this company. And, contact every math and science organization who may need to use pi in equations, in talks, in textbooks and in webcasts before they too, are being demanded to remove their work from the public because it includes the pi symbol in it too.