A Brooklyn artist named Paul Ingrisano trademarked pi in January, and cease-and-desist letters from his lawyer to popular print-on-demand t-shirt site Zazzle are causing a firestorm of controversy, Wired.co.uk reports.
Thousands of t-shirts, hats, sweatshirts, and other clothing items were pulled from the online marketplace because of Ingrisano’s trademark for pi followed by a period. The trademark was filed for in November of 2012 on the grounds that Ingrisano’s company, pi Productions Corp., produced t-shirts featuring the 3,000 year old symbol, followed by a period. The trademark was granted in January, and when Ingrisano found a “wide array” of products featuring the pi symbol on Zazzle.com, his lawyer, Ronald Millet, issued a cease-and-desist letter demanding their removal from the site:
“It has been brought to our client’s attention that your business, Zazzle Com/AKA Zazzle Inc., has been using the mathematical symbol ‘pi,’ referred to herein as the ‘PI trademark,’ in association with the marketing or sale of your products or of products offered through your services. We have evidence of your unlawful products to preserve as evidence. Accordingly, you are hereby directed to CEASE AND DESIST ALL COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT.”
Zazzle responded this week by temporarily banning items featuring pi, which is a popular symbol for mathematical puns. As The Inquisitr has reported, fans of the symbol even celebrate National pi day on March 14, in a reference to 3.14, pi’s mathematical value. While Millet admits that to his knowledge, none of the banned products display the exact design, he nonetheless contends that some were confusingly similar to his client’s trademark – pi followed by a period.
Zazzle Pi Trademark Letter
Zazzle users were understandably furious at Ingrisano, according to Business Insider. One user in Zazzle’s online forum asked “how one person’s trademark which incorporates a generic, untrademarked mathematical symbol can be justification to remove all designs using this generic symbol?” while another user, who admitted to being “enraged,” described Ingrisano as a “lunatic” who “thinks he owns part of the Greek language and its usage as part of the language of the universe!”
Angry users questioned how pi, a Greek letter, could be trademarked in the first place, according to CBCNews. “Pi is an irrational constant in mathematics. It’s the name given to the ratio of a circle’s diameter to its circumference. It’s denoted by the Greek letter ‘pi.’ This symbol is used in every mathematical text and paper involving this ratio, and has been since at least 1706,” Zazzle seller Dave Lartigue said, likening the pi trademark to “trademarking the number three, or hell, the ‘e’ in the design, which is another mathematical concept. It’s clearly absurd to anyone except, I guess, Zazzle.”
What the hell, @zazzle? Pi, the mathematical symbol, is TRADEMARKED? Can I trademark “3”?
— Dave Lartigue (@daveexmachina) May 28, 2014
What sort of person trademarks a specialized version of universal symbol like pi, then targets non-infringing works? #canttrademarkpi
— Stephen G. Fuller (@Teekworth) May 29, 2014
Following backlash from their users, Zazzle decided on Friday, May 30, to return products bearing the pi symbol to the site. Several users also noted that Ingrisano is the same person who currently has pending trademark registration for the symbol “I<3”, an idea that many found aggravating in light of his pi trademark.
[Image via MSN Living]