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Why the U.S. Copyright Office refuses to register American Airlines' eagle logo

Why the U.S. Copyright Office refuses to register American Airlines' eagle logo
The American Airlines logo was unveiled in 2013 but the U.S. Copyright Office has repeatedly rejected requests by the airline to register the logo, saying it is not creative enough. (American Airlines)

American Airlines created its newest logo in 2013, partly to help launch an overhaul of the brand for what would eventually become the world’s largest carrier.

But five years later, the Fort Worth-based airline has yet to settle a dispute with the U.S. Copyright Office, which has repeatedly refused to register the stylized logo, intended to resemble an eagle with blue and red wings.

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The dispute centers on whether the logo is original or creative enough.

Three times American Airlines submitted the logo for copyright registration, which allows the carrier to sue anyone who breaches the copyright. Three times the copyright office rejected the request.

The American Airlines logo already has trademark protection, which is usually reserved for symbols and slogans. A copyright is typically used to protect artistic and intellectual work.

The copyright office has argued that the symbol "does not contain a sufficient amount of original and creative artistic or graphic authorship” to support a copyright registration and that the work is nothing more than a collection of common and familiar shapes.

In its most recent rejection, the copyright office described the logo as “a dual-colored, curved trapezoid with a bisecting, shaded and curved triangle.”

After the most recent rejection, American Airlines filed a lawsuit, naming Karyn Temple, the acting head of the agency. The carrier argued in its lawsuit that the logo, created by Futurebrand, a global design agency, is highly creative and stylized and has won the praises of many graphic designers.

The airline also argued that the copyright office had previously approved copyright protection for logos with what the carrier considered to be low levels of creativity, including the symbol for Marvel’s “X-Men” movie franchise and the Vince Lombardi trophy given to the winners of the Super Bowl.

The feud may be near the end. The copyright office recently announced that it is reconsidering its rejection of the logo, prompting American Airlines to withdraw its lawsuit against Temple.

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