Thanks to yesterday’s 24 hour time travel home from Australia, Your Sprudge Editors effectively missed being able to report on this story in a timely fashion, so it’s quite likely you’ve already read about the Everyman logo lawsuit drama from one of several reputable news outlets who copy & pasted from the original New York Times story. We’ve known about the impending legal situation with Everyman for around a month, and respected requests from our friends to keep mum so as to not endanger Everyman’s ability to get their saga told by The Paper of Record, who won’t touch a story that Sprudge publishes first.
So now that this unfortunate situation with Everyman’s logo copyright infringement has had its N.Y. / Region section day in the sun, here’s our TL;DR version of the saga, with some information from beyond the NYT’s purview.
* In 2009, a designer from Espresso Parts named Dave White created the now-infamous “I (MUG) NY” logo for the NYC Coffee Peeps Spring Fling, which took place on June 7th 2009 in Brooklyn at Spuyten Duyvil. This event is archived here on Shotzombies, a blog published by longtime NYC coffee professional Mike White (no relation to Dave). The Coffee Peeps, led by Liz Clayton, Ed Kauffman, and the aforementioned Mike White, helped to organize a loose series of social events for the NY coffee community, which at that time was still quite small. The Shotzombies post includes the world’s first image of the “I (MUG) NY” logo, which was designed and used for entirely non-commercial purposes. The Peeps never came within an inch of profiting from its use, but they did give away some cool looking pins.
* Sometime soon after this June 7th event, Everyman Espresso’s new owner, Sam Penix, had Mr. White’s “I (MUG) NY” logo tattooed on his fist. (For a back history on Everyman’s original ownership and development, please read this feature from 2011). The tattoo went iconic in 2010, when Oliver Strand used it as the top image for his somewhat breathless – and surely infuriating to the Ken Nye’s of the world – NYT Dining & Wine feature “New York Is Finally Taking Its Coffee Seriously“, which profiled Mr. Penix’s Everyman as part of the new class of quality-focused NYC cafes.
* Sometime after the Strand feature, Mr. Penix and Co. started using the “I (MUG) NY” logo in the shop’s branding, selling t-shirts and mugs and using a stylized version of the logo as part of the shop’s public iconography. At some point the folks at the NY State Department of Economic Development got wind of this usage, and decided it violated their copyright on Milton Glaser’s “I (HEART) NY” original concept. This is probably kind of a reach by them – the logo is a representation of artwork on Mr. Penix’s body, after all – but copyright law sucks and usually the guy with the bigger team of lawyers and most money to feed them wins.
But here’s where the story really starts to suck. Everyman has removed all usage of the logo from their stores. You can no longer buy “I (MUG) NY” merchandise. What’s happening now from the NY State Department of Economic Development is about money, pure and simple, and could effectively ruin an otherwise upstanding small business that has helped usher in countless others in New York’s ongoing specialty coffee boom. Shutting down Everyman serves no social purpose; it is simply a cash grab, and a foolish one at that, considering the far deeper pockets out there to target.
Like The New York Times, for example, whose own use of the “I (MUG) NY” logo from Mr. Penix’s fist helped sell countless newspapers driven by untold millions in advertising revenue back in March of 2009, and whose website continues to run the logo in its archives alongside advertisements from clients like Bank of America and Singapore Airlines. “Far deeper pockets” doesn’t even begin to convey the nature of this situation; if you’ve got two companies you feel are profiting from the misappropriation of your imagery, why not sue the much larger of the pair?
This is supposed to be a cash grab, right?