features Earth & Universe
Below is a discussion of the legal
controversy surrounding this design. This is followed by an
explanation of what the different symboIs mean.
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
The 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 "Coexist"
You can read more about
the legal wrangling over various versions of the "Coexist" design by
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 jewelry.
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 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
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
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.
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.