Subways stories, municipal trademarks and IP overreaching

It’s a lot of concepts in that title, but I thought DW’ers might like this post (I’ve dropped a bit of it below) from my annual Christmastime compendium of the best of LIKELIHOOD OF CONFUSION® .

I posted a lot less this year than I used to, but arguably a lot better.

I’ve been following the IP obsession of New York’s Metropolitan Transit Authority for a while now, including past efforts to maintain control over the use of the iconic subway-line symbols as trademarks.  I expressed particular skepticism that the MTA was in much of a position to complain about any unauthorized misuse of the marks once it had permitted and promoted that use in connection with “NYC Condom.”

Amazing to consider it, but that post was written (gulp) five years ago, almost to the day.

But half a decade later, the issue came up when I stepped into a Lexington Avenue train (the East Side line — of course) festooned exclusively with display ads for kind-of-fancy shoe maker Cole Haan, again integrating the famous letter-in-a-colored-circle logos to spell out all sorts of things — including, naturally:

That’s COLE HAAN, of course — spelled CQLE HAAN (with a “Q”) because there’s no “O” train. Read More