The New York Times reported last week that the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (Port Authority) has sent a cease and desist letter to Fishs Eddy, a New York City retailer selling house wares, asking it to stop selling goods featuring drawings of some of New York City’s buildings, bridges and tunnels.
|If this is a kitchen towel, a trademark attorney wants to speak with you|
The World Trade Center, where the Twin Towers once stood, is operated by the Port Authority. It also operates the “bridges and tunnels” which are indispensable to go in and out of the city (unless you hire a chopper of course). According to The New York Times’ article, the cease and desist letter describes them as “assets” of the Port Authority, and asks Fishs Eddy to “destroy all materials, documents and other items bearing the assets.”
It is hard to understand what could be the legal basis for such assumptions. Some variations of “Bridge and Tunnel” are registered as trade marks in the U.S., but none by the Port Authority. The spire of the Chrysler building is registered as a trade mark, but the trade mark is not owned by the Port Authority. A few years ago, its owner had also asked Fishs Eddy, unsuccessfully, to stop selling the 212 line.
The cease and desist letter also claims that the line “interferes with the Port Authority’s control of its own reputation.” It may be that the Port Authority is moving aggressively to either prevent commercial uses of the World Trade Center. Or it could be that it wants to sell souvenirs itself. It filed a trade mark application on June 26 for ‘One World Observatory,’ serial number 86321949, in several classes, among them class 26 for hair accessories, class 27 for car mats, or class 28 for wind-up toys, yo-yos, snow globes, snow domes, bath toys, not to mention pet novelties. Its “Freedom Tower” trade mark was registered in class 16 for money clips, class 20 for plastic key chains, and many other delightful commodities, but was abandoned last year, as ‘Freedom Tower’ will finally not be the official name of the new One World Trade Center tower.
The letter also argues that the lines “evoke thoughts of the Port Authority, the twin towers, W.T.C. and the September 11th terrorist attacks.” This is particularly puzzling, as it seems that the Port Authority wishes somehow to claim ownership of 9/11 and the Twin Towers. The 212 line, complete with the Twin Towers, predated the attacks. This tragedy, and the thoughts it may evoke, certainly does not belong to a single entity, nor should it belong to anybody.