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American Airlines Is Suing to Get Its Logo Copyrighted

Oct. 16, 2018
3 min read
Aircraft, Aircrafts, American Airlines, plane, planes, Livery, Exterior
American Airlines Is Suing to Get Its Logo Copyrighted
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American Airlines is suing the US Copyright Office. The world's largest airline says its new logo should be protected by copyright laws, which the agency has repeatedly denied because, in its view, it's too basic to qualify.

Earlier this year, American was denied a copyright claim by the United States Copyright Office for its logo — the third time in three years that this happened. It was previously denied in 2016 and 2017. According to the US Copyright Office, the American Airlines logo is just too plain to be copyrighted.

Specifically, the US Copyright Office states that American Airlines' current logo lacks creativity. Back in January, the agency said of the logo, “While the bar for creativity is low, it does exist and the work cannot glide over even its low heights." American Airlines thinks otherwise and said in its lawsuit that copyrights are granted for far less creative logos.

The current American Airlines logo made its debut in 2013. It features what the airline calls in the lawsuit the "Flight Symbol", resembling an eagle made up of red, white, and blue accents. A stylized eagle also appeared in the old logo, designed in 1967 by Massimo Vignelli, who famously hated the 2013 version, designed by Futurebrand to reflect a new corporate identity after the merger with US Airways.

In its lawsuit, filed in the US District Court for the Northern District of Texas, AA says its logo is "a complex, multi-layered composition incorporating distinct images as well as unique concepts of negative space" and that it "possesses far more than the modicum of creativity required for copyright protection."

As an example of simpler logos that still got copyright protection, AA attached to its lawsuit an image of some corporate designs including two that are familiar to many: the logo of the X-Men movie franchise, and no less an American icon than the Super Bowl trophy (bottom right in the image below.)

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Image from lawsuit provided by American Airlines

If the designer of the 1967 logo was right, though, this is all kind of moot — because the "Flight Symbol" is going away soon.

"I will not be here to make a bet," said in 2013 Vignelli, who died the following year, "but this (new logo) won’t last another 25 years."

Featured image by American Airlines Boeing 737-800 with the updated flight symbol seen in the current livery. (Image: American Airlines Group)