Home » Copyright/Intellectual Property » Copyright board ruffles AA’s feathers by rejecting logo copyright again

Copyright board ruffles AA’s feathers by rejecting logo copyright again

30 January 2018

From USA Today:

Even after a go-around, American Airlines couldn’t clear the relatively low threshold to copyright its logo adopted in 2013, the U.S. Copyright Office’s review board has ruled.

“A mere simplistic arrangement of non-protectable elements does not demonstrate the level of creativity necessary to warrant protection,” Catherine Zaller Rowland, senior adviser to the register of copyrights, said in a five-page explanation called “the final decision in this matter.”

The airline already has the image trademarked, to prevent another U.S. carrier or tourism entity from using the image in its marketing. But a copyright would have offered longer and broader protection internationally, if it were approved.

. . . .

The logo looks like a white eagle’s head poking through a diagonal swoosh with blue on top and red on the bottom. The carrier adopted the image after combining with U.S. Airways to become the world’s largest airline.

American filed an application June 3, 2016, to register the logo. But a registration specialist refused the registration in a letter Oct. 4, 2016, by finding it “lacks the authorship necessary to support a copyright claim.”

American disputed that finding and requested a reconsideration in a letter Dec. 20, 2016. The airline argued that the logo “far exceeds the extremely low level of creativity required to sustain a copyright claim,” according to the letter from Andrew Avsec, an intellectual-property lawyer with Brinks Gilson & Lione.

. . . .

But after re-evaluating the request, the office again rejected it by concluding it “does not contain a sufficient amount of original and creative artistic or graphic authorship to support a copyright registration,” according to an April 12, 2017, letter from Stephanie Mason, an attorney-advisor.

. . . .

[T]he copyright board’s decision Jan. 8 repeated a longstanding requirement set forth in the Copyright Act that prohibit registration for “familiar symbols or designs; (and) mere variations of typographic ornamentation, lettering or coloring.”

“Further, use of the colors of the United States flag (red, white, and blue) are exceedingly common and do not lend themselves to arguments that the work’s design choices were especially creative,” Rowland wrote. “In any event, even if a bird motif were unusual in this context, the work falls below the threshold for creativity required by the Copyright Act.”

Link to the rest at USA Today

And, so you can judge for yourself, here’s a copy of American Airlines’ new logo (Nominative fair use because the trademark is shown in both the OP and here in connection with a discussion of the trademark design. Plus PG does not operate an airline plus he’s not that taken with AA’s logo design and suggests an alternative below which contrasts with AA’s trademark.):

As an alternative trademark, here’s what comes to PG’s mind when he thinks about American Airlines:

Yay, AA!!!!!!!! Photos from Unsplash

Copyright/Intellectual Property

9 Comments to “Copyright board ruffles AA’s feathers by rejecting logo copyright again”


  2. I’m going to start a new airlines called ‘Alternate Airlines’, and I’ll use the ‘AA’, but in comic script. 😉

  3. What seems creative to me is interpreting that as an eagle’s head.

    • I agree. It looks like perhaps a wave or some type of blade. It wouldn’t have been that hard to give the thing just a little more nuance so that it actually resembled the profile of a bird. I really don’t understand why they didn’t, if that’s what they were going for.

      • I thought it was a shark’s fin (and the artist’s subtle comment on the airline.)

      • It’s actually a clever aeronautical design.

        The symbol is a plane’s vertical stabilizer (the part of the tail that sticks straight up). The blue/red stripe is the vstab’s leading edge, the implied white stripe is the tail rudder.

  4. It looks like the indicator on plastic packaging of where to pull a peel-back tab.

    Which never works out anyway.

  5. Off the headline alone, my first thought was: “Why does Alcoholics Anonymous need a copyrighted logo?”

    Then I saw it was for my second least favorite airline.

    My least favorite is Continental, for their penchant of forcibly routing my through and holding me hostage in, Newark.
    AA held me hostage too but it was Miami. At least they have good booze there.

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