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Oval Coexist Bumper Sticker. Uses religious symbols to promote tolerance. Purple.
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$3.50 Oval Bumper Sticker. “Coexist" 3.5-in.x 9-in. Weather & fade resistant. 

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$2 Oval Mini Sticker . “Coexist" 1.5-in.x 5.5-in. Weather & fade resistant. 

Oval Coexist mini sticker. Uses religious symbols to promote tolerance. Purple.
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Coexist Oval Sticker

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. 

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Below is the text of the cease-and-desist letter received by CarryaBigSticker and several other sticker and T-shirt companies in the winter of 2007-08. Care has been taken to retain misspellings and malapropisms found in the original. We at CarryaBigSticker have inserted a few comments in yellow:

McCarter English
Attorneys at Law

Re: Infringement of COEXIST Registered Trademark

Dear Mr. Frazier:

We represent Coexist LLP ("Coexist") in connection with trademark and unfair competition matters. Coexist is a company that enjoys a prominent reputation in the premium apparel and gift market with fashion conscience and sophisticated individuals and the general public, as well as among high-end fashion boutiques and department stores. (We at CarryaBigSticker never heard of Coexist LLP until this legal controversy came to our attention.) Coexist's mission is to promote global harmony, and a certain portion of Coexist's sales are donated to charitable organizations. (Trademarking somebody else's design without permission and then bringing lawsuits against others who sell similar designs, and threats of legal action even against those who sell not-so-similar designs, seems counterproductive to global harmony.) 

As you may know, our client adopted the COEXIST design and word marks (the "COEXIST TRADEMARKS") as early as August 2003 as trademarks for its high quality apparel items. As a result of its widespread use of the COEXIST TRADEMARKS, Coexist has developed valuable goodwill in these particular marks.

Moreover, the use of our client's COEXIST TRADEMARKS has been recognized by the United States Patent and Trademark Office, which has granted the following registrations to Coexist: Registration No. 3,170,918 which issued on November 14, 2006, and Registration No. 2,924,211, which issued February 1, 2005.

It has come to our attention that you are engaging in trademark infringement and unfair competition under the Federal Trademark Act, 15 U.S.C. S 1051 et seq. ("The Lanham Act"). In particular, on the website "carryabigsticker.com" your use of the identical mark on identical goods traveling in the same channels of trade and marketed to similar customers is likely to cause consumer confusion as to the source of origin of said goods. (CarryaBigSticker does not sell any products bearing an "identical mark" and we never have. Furthermore, we sell in different channels and to different customers. We do not sell our products in fashion boutiques or department stores. Our customers are not so much fashion conscious as they are concerned about conveying a message of peace, tolerance and coexistence.)  Both fashion professionals and the general public may be misled, if they have not already been, into mistakenly believing that your buttons and bumper stickers ("Products") are approved or sponsored by our client, or that you are affilliated with Coexist. (It is odd that there is no mention here of the Coexist T-shirts sold by CarryaBigSticker.  Also, we think it odd that buttons and stickers raise an objection, even though the initial trademark obtained by Coexist LLP makes no mention of an intent to deal in such products. Only recently has Coexist LLP applied for a trademark related to stickers. This was apparently an after-thought.)

Moreover, given that Coexist sets a high standard for quality in the industry, as its many customers would confirm, confusion could lead to substantial damage to our client in terms of loss of sales and injury to reputation, as well as the loss of funding to those charitable organizations Coexist sponsors, in the event that the quality of your Products is not commensurate with that of Coexist. (CarryaBigSticker maintains its products are of commensurate quality, and the real damage to the reputation of Coexist LLP arises from its questionable lawsuits and unjustified threats of legal action.) 

There is simply no functional rationale for your slavish coping of the COEXIST TRADEMARKS other than your desire to infringe upon our client's goodwill. (There has been no slavish copying here at CarryaBigSticker, and no desire to be in any way associated with any goodwill or any other  sentiments that may be engendered by Coexist LLP.) A wide variety of designs are possible without interfering with or compromising the intended "look" or "feel" of your Products. Accordingly, Coexist demands that you, and any party acting for you or on your behalf, immediately cease marketing and selling COEXIST branded products on [where sold]. (Apparently, the lawyers could not even be troubled to fill in the "where sold" with the CarryaBigSticker Web address.)

We are prepared to resolve this matter amicably if we receive your express written agreement to comply with Coexist's request within seven (7) days after your receipt of this letter. If you fail to advise us by that date, our client shall, without further notice to you, take such legal action as it deems advisable to protect its interests.

Please note that this letter is being sent without prejudice to, nor waiver of, any rights, claims, defenses, or contentions held by Coexist.

Very truly yours,

Gary H. Fechter

 

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