Art practice today can be a confusing thing, and Brooklyn-based artist Paul Ingrisano’s decision to trademark the symbol for pi followed by a period has caused a furor online when his lawyer sent a cease-and-desist letter to Zazzle, a consumer generated printing service, for merchandise displaying the symbol. The absurdity of the claim is based on the fact that pi is not only a 3,000-year-old mathematical constant, but the sixteenth letter of the Greek alphabet.
One Zazzle seller, Dave Lartigue, blogged about the ridiculous claim to all things pi:
Yes, you’re reading that correctly. Zazzle is claiming that the mathematical symbol pi is trademarked. Or rather, it’s saying that someone told them it’s a registered trademark and they believed them.
… McDonald’s can trademark a letter M of a certain design. This does not give it ownership of every instance of the letter M, however.
The official trademark document is online, and the decision — the company cited the Lanham Act to one seller — caused a massive furor as geeks everywhere revolted. Thankfully, Zazzle has since changed their mind and reinstated all pi-related merchandise.
It appears the artist has his heart, or <3, set on another common symbol, I <3, but I’m guessing he won’t be getting his way after this trademark drama.
The moral of the story is if you’re a trademark troll you can’t have your pi and … well, moving on.