Just kidding about the zombie and brains part, but the warning is true. The New York Times (NYT) has sent Neighborhoodies a cease-and-desist letter ordering them to stop selling this shirt:
Inspired by a shirt worn in this movie:
The reason for the cease request is the NYT having a pending trademark claim over the name, New York Herald Tribune, and that the Neighborhoodies shirt is infringing on their intellectual property.
Here’s a little history about the namesake paper.
The New York Herald Tribune was created from the merger of the New York Herald and New York Tribune about 100 years ago. The US version of the paper shut down in 1966 and in 1967, the NY Times and Washington Post acquired parts of the international version and renamed it to the International Herald Tribune. Got that?
In 2002, the NYT acquired full control of the International Herald Tribune and to this day that name is incorporated into the name of the global edition of the NYT. As for the New York Herald Tribune, the name seems to have gone unused in the US for 40 years until the founder of Neighborhoodies used it in 2007 for a halloween costume, and subsequently offered the same design for public sale. 3 years later, they are attracting the attention of the NYT.
Now that we are caught up on the history, the question of the day is: Does the NYT have a right to enforce a trademark claim that they have not used for 44 years against someone that has used it for the past 3 years, even if that someone had reason to believe that the mark was abandoned? Leave a comment with your thoughts.
This issue also opens up a can of worms related to T-shirt designing.
If you take a trip around the Shirt-O-Sphere, you will find a plethora of designs that pay homage to long gone brands and companies. You’ll also find designs that emulate current trademarks and active brands. Now, I’m not a trademark attorney, but I believe there are some fair use provisions which allow the creation and sale of designs, even if they have some similarities to existing styles. I’m not talking about copying a wotto design and selling it as your own, I’m talking about some element that might be a little wotto-like and incorporating it into a bigger canvas. If I’m not mistaken, you can even duplicate a style providing you don’t copy a registered mark or a complete element that is commonly attributed to a specific designer, I.E., you can’t base your designs on a rhino without the blessings of, this guy.
Without these fair use provisions, it would be very difficult to claim ownership of your design since everything somebody created yesterday can be used to stop anything being created in the future, regardless of how active the item is currently being used. Imagine if the guy that put wings on a shirt, even though he stopped designing that way 10 years ago, sent a letter out today to all the designs with wings on them ordering them to stop. (Well, that might be a good thing, but that’s a different article). What if you had to stop simply because he said so?
It will be interesting to see how this case unfolds.
A side note to this issue is that the domain, www.newyorkheraldtribune.com, was registered in Oct. 2002 by a company in Kuala Lumpur, but since they are not in New York, I guess it’s alright for them to use the name.
Come to think of it, how come the movie is not ordered off the market for using the pending trademark?
If you’re still interested in the Herald Tribune shirt, get it while you can for $24.99 + shipping at Neighborhoodies
Update: The NYT was successful in getting the site’s ISP to shut off the URL to the shirt. Neighborhoodies vows to revive the sales on a different host.
Second update: shirt s for sale again. Get it here.
[Story discovered on Consumerist]
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