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 sponsored by 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" designs.
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 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:
Chris (at) 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.