Pi Day Reflections: Absurdities in Intellectual Property Rights 2024-03-14

March 14 (3/14), Pi Day, is an opportunity to celebrate the mathematical constant and reflect on the absurd aspects of intellectual property. One example of this is the story of Paul Ingrisano, the artist from Brooklyn who registered the symbol of the Greek letter Pi as a trademark and demanded that it be removed from T-shirts.

Paul who runs PI Production Corp. has successfully trademarked this symbol for various apparel products, including T-shirts, trousers and shoes. Although the letter π is commonly known as a mathematical symbol, it can also be found on T-shirts and other items for science enthusiasts. The absurdity of the situation was that the artist had asserted his trademark rights in a practical way by demanding that the Pi symbol no longer be printed on T-shirts sold by Zazzle. As a result, Zazzle was attacked by a lawyer representing the artist, who demanded a halt to the sale of T-shirts bearing the symbol and an audit of the company's books and records. Although the demand itself seemed absurd, Zazzle initially agreed to suspend sales, triggering a wave of dissatisfaction among customers.
Ultimately, the company decided to resume the sale of T-shirts with the Pi symbol.

The epilogue of this story is equally interesting, as the artist's lawyer had to admit that the allegedly infringing T-shirts did not contain a dot, which is an important element of a registered trademark. Nevertheless, he claimed that the symbols were confusingly similar to the registered trademark.

This story shows how intellectual property rights can sometimes lead to absurd situations and conflicts. Pi Day reminds us that we need to balance the protection of intellectual property with reason and common sense.
A copy of the letter can be found here: https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/1175624-zazzle-pi-trademark-letter.html



Tamara Besednjak Valič

Faculty Of Information Studies In Novo Mesto

e-mail: tamara.valic@fis.unm.si


Virág Szuák

Pannon Business Network Association

e-mail: virag.szuak@pbn.hu