Trademark Issued for Pi Symbol for Clothing Line Causes Uproar

By Joseph Mandour on June 23, 2014

pi symbolLos Angeles – A Brooklyn artist and entrepreneur has trademarked the pi symbol to brand his line of t-shirts, tank tops and hats, angering many math geeks and clothing designers who use the symbol on a variety of objects and apparel. The artist, Paul Igrisano, claims that he sought a trademark for the symbol pi, with the period added, because he was trying to protect his trademark rights and business.

Ingrisano has also begun sending cease-and-desist letters to sites trafficking in pi-themed clothing. The website Zazzle.com, temporarily pulled down listings for hundreds of products at Ingrisano’s request, but restored them less than two days after the move roused small designers who use the site. Among them was a math teacher who marketed t-shirts with the pi symbol for a Pi Day celebration in his school.

Ingrisano, whose initials are P.I., says Pi was a childhood nickname for him and thereby has special personal significance to him. But to others, trademarking pi seems as absurd as claiming ownership of the alphabet. Ingrisano is now getting a steady stream of hate mail on a daily basis. Some websites have even started their own clothing lines that berate Ingrisano as a “pi-hole” and “pi-rate.” But Ingrisano says he has the support of local artists and isn’t going to back down. He is determined to continue marketing his line of clothing and making sure that his business is protected.

The key inquiry of course is whether Ingrisano was actually the first to use the Pi symbol on apparel. For any use that pre-dated Ingrisano, he would be hard pressed to have them stop use. Beyond that question, it is also import to consider whether consumers consider the use of the Pi symbol on clothing as merely ornamental and thus not even a trademark use. In the end, it may be that Ingrisano has a long uphill legal battle against each so-called infringer.

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