is a discussion of the legal controversy surrounding this design.
This is followed by an explanation of what the different symboIs
As you may have noticed,
we sell a lot of "Coexist" designs on this site. There
is a reason for that: "Coexist" designs sell well in these
troubled times. Some of the "Coexist" designs we sell
(including this one) have been supplied to us by other companies. But a
few are our own unique creations.
You might think that a
"Coexist" design would encourage people to get along. We hope
that is true. But the sad fact is that there are various versions of
this design being sold and used in various ways, and there are
conflicting claims of ownership related to some of those designs. One
company has even been threatening to bring legal action against other
companies that try to sell Coexist designs.
Here is the story of this
controversy in a nutshell: In 2001 a relatively simple
"Coexist" design incorporating three religious symbols was
created by Piotr
Mlodozeniac, a Polish graphic designer, for a contest sponsored
Museum on the Seam for Dialogue, Understanding, and Coexistence
in Jerusalem. The Museum has incorporated Mlodozeniac's design into a
traveling exhibit and also sells shirts, posters, etc. bearing the
design. The Museum claims exclusive ownership of the design.
But the Mlodozeniac design
has apparently been used extensively by others without permission. The
Museum on the Seam seems to take a very dim view of this, while
Mlodozeniac himself seems to take pride in some of the ways other people
have used his design. For instance, U2 has used the image in
concerts, which no doubt boosted interest in the design.
But Mlodozeniac was
dismayed to learn that a small Indiana T-shirt company called Coexist
LLP successfully trademarked his "Coexist" design in 2005. The
Indiana company subsequently brought a lawsuit against CafePress and
three other vendors who had been selling products bearing similar
You can read more about
the legal wrangling over various versions of the "Coexist"
design by visiting @U2.
In the winter of 2007-08,
Coexist LLP sent cease-and-desist letters to several sticker and T-shirt
companies demanding that they stop selling various "Coexist"
designs. The letter threatened legal action if these companies did not
comply. The letter was sent to some of our suppliers, and it
remains to be seen whether or not we will be able to continue buying
certain "Coexist" products from those suppliers.
CarryaBigSticker also received a copy of the
cease-and-desist letter (see text at right). We have chosen to ignore
the letter for a variety of reasons, not least of which is that,
contrary to the letter, we have never sold any "Coexist"
designs that are identical (or even very similar) to the trademark
registered by Coexist LLP. Also, we have never tried to pass off our
products as those of Coexist LLP. In other words, we are not using
"Coexist" designs as trademarks. We are selling an important
peace-related message, a message that has the full free-speech
protection of the First Amendment.
CarryaBigSticker is not
involved in any litigation related to the "Coexist" design.
We are hoping it stays that way. We feel the "Coexist" designs
that we sell are quite a bit different from the Coexist LLP trademark,
and therefore unlikely to be the target of litigation.
Despite the risk of
litigation, we want to help distribute a variety of
"Coexist" designs because we believe the concept of
coexistence is too important a concept to be distributed only by a few.
The concept belongs to all of us, and should be distributed by many.
Meanwhile, Coexist LLP recently petitioned the U.S.
Patent and Trademark office to expand the use of its trademark to other
products. Their original trademark application expressed the intention
to use the mark only on apparel. Their latest applications would expand their
use to stickers and posters, as well as jewelry. If these applications
go unopposed, Coexist LLP will be in an even stronger position to
attempt to limit the use of Coexist designs on stickers, posters and
Dan R. Frazier
If you would like
to let Coexist LLP know how much goodwill they are generating by
threatening to bring legal action against other companies selling
original Coexist designs, you can e-mail Christopher Tierney, one of the
owners of Coexist LLP:
CoexistOnline (dot) com
What the Different Symbols Mean:
The first symbol, the crescent moon and star, is commonly
used to represent Islam. However, the symbol was in use for
thousands of years before it was ever associated with Islam. Here is what
it says on About.com
about these symbols: "Most sources agree that these ancient celestial
symbols were in use by the peoples of Central Asia and Siberia in their
worship of sun, moon and sky gods. There are also reports that the
crescent moon and star were used to represent the Carthaginian goddess
Tanit or the Greek goddess Diana."
The second symbol is a peace symbol. The peace symbol was
invented in 1958 by Gerald Holtom, a London artist involved with the
Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. After being used in an anti-nuclear
protest, it gained popularity as a peace symbol, partly because it was
easier to draw than a dove. You can read more about the origins of the
peace symbol using this link.
The "e" is adorned with the symbols for male and
female. According to Wikipedia, the male symbol (an arrow pointing away
from a circle) is derived from the astronomical and astrological symbol
for Mars.The female symbol (a cross-like symbol fixed to the bottom of a
circle) is derived from the symbol of Venus. When used together, the
symbols can signify intersexual or transgender. However, the designer of
this sticker has told me that when he added the male and female symbols,
he was trying to promote the idea of harmony between men and women. Read
more about gender
symbols on Wikipedia.
The next symbol is the Star of David, also known as the
Shield of David. The symbol has been used since about A.D. 1000 to
symbolize Judaism and the Jewish community. The symbol appears on the
Israeli flag. Read more about the Star
of David on Wikipedia.
The letter "i" is topped with a star within a
circle. According to About.com,
this is a pentacle: "The five-pointed star within a circle is the
most common Pagan symbol, and it is typically used to identify oneself as
a Pagan or Wiccan. The five points represent the 4 elements (Earth, air,
water, fire) plus the spirit, and the circle connects them all. A
five-pointed star without the circle is sometimes called a pentagram,
rather than a pentacle. Based on numerology, the five points means the
pentacle symbolizes the Earth element and can be used as an Earth symbol
on an altar."
The letter "S" has been cleverly adapted to
resemble the Taijitu, a Chinese symbol representing the idea of yin and
yang from Taoist and Neo-Confucian philosophy. Yin and yang describe the
two opposing but complementary forces found in nature. Yin is associated
with shade and darkness as well as femininity, while yang is has
associations with light and masculinity. Wikipedia describes yin
and yang more fully.
The final symbol resembles a cross, which of course has
come to be associated with Christianity and the crucifixion of Jesus.