Originally posted 2009-09-02 16:31:48. Republished by Blog Post Promoter
I’ve been watching these guys at the MTA and their IP enforcement program for a while now. Once was for a client, who, regrettably, didn’t want to fight.
- I first picked up on this over four years ago, when I wrote,
The New York Times reported (yes, reg. req.) last week that New York’s Metropolitan Transit Authority is scrambling to enforce trademark rights in its wide array of iconography, including the famous alphanumeric train symbols known to all New Yorkers. . . .
Still and all, there is an interesting trademark policy issue in here somewhere. It’s one thing to say that services aren’t free and that even when, as in the case of the MTA, they succesfully address significant externalities, their costs should not be unduly disconnected from users. But it’s another thing to say that, however revenue-starved, a public institution (in the broad sense of the word) such as the MTA should restrict the public, much less the bloggy, enjoyment of a public iconography such as the train number symbols and the image of the classic subway token.
- A few months later I reported on a “crackdown” by the MTA on unauthorized distribution of copyright-protected maps of the subway, and cited Bill Patry, who said, in a similar vein:
There is no statutory bar to protection for original subway maps, therefore. There should, though, be a common sense bar but that, like common decency, is apparently lacking.
- Later in 2005 I saw the MTA’s overreaching finally exceed the breaking point, when it tried to register trademark rights in this original phrase (they were succesful, too).
What, really, is the point? It’s just your (my) tax money at work.
- In 2006 I noted a story reporting that — unlike a lot of other copyright, trademark and right-of-publicity owners who have not made a peep — the MTA made those masters of confusion, “Jews for Jesus,” stop using the transit symbols in their underground evangelizing, though in reality, they probably didn’t have to.
- Then, most recently, I “covered” an item — involving official New York City family planning devices bearing a “subway theme,” regarding which I suggested, somewhat tongue in