I Love NY Logo: Copyright and Suing Rights

by Mike Jansen
I Love NY Logo: Copyright and Suing Rights

A diehard Bob Dylan fan and the groundbreaking graphic designer, Milton Glaser, created something at the back of a taxi using scrap paper and a red crayon: the I Love NY logo. 

To this date, the original drawing is held in the Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan – whereas millions of t-shirts, coffee mugs, hats, scarves, and souvenirs have been roaming around the world with this widely famous logo on them. From brand billboards and expensive souvenir stores to a flea market – if you step in New York City, you certainly cannot miss the I Love NY logo: the essence of New York. 

Related: 10 Things You Didn’t Know About the Iconic “I Love NY” Logo

Nonetheless, as per a recent incident, you can get sued if you sell a photograph with the I Love NY logo in it. 

A documentary and street photographer named Michael Goldrei received an email from a United Kingdom-based photo agency, Alamy, which could have been the end of his photography career – but, fortunately, it was more of an exemplar. 

To understand this better, we need to move back to the year 2013 when the following image was shot:

Years later, the iconic logo on the wrinkled plastic bag caught the attention of NYSDED (New York State Department of Economic Development), and soon enough, the Alamy Copyright team sent an email to the Vienna-based photographer stating that his image(s) with the I Love New York logo in it can be used solely for the editorial purposes and no longer should be put into any commercial use. 

With the logo being the official state slogan, one of the most legendary logos for 43 years, and trademarked by an establishment as authoritative as NYSDED, Michael says that he was not surprised by this occurrence. Nonetheless, he raises more than a fair point asking “In an age where walking through a city may expose you to hundreds of logos on clothing, shop signs, coffee cups, etc. every few minutes, where should companies draw the line as to what is their intellectual property, and what is just part of the (unavoidable) street furniture of everyday life?”

Built to save the tourism industry, this logo has reached a peak that takes tourism beyond New York. 

While the NYSDED is open to providing a license for the I Love New York logo and brand, it surely cannot be an easy nut to crack. Also, the underlying question is: with the logo placed on millions of products, is it even doable to wipe out the commercial access for all of those? If so, is this just the beginning of how New York shows their sincerity towards its brand? 

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