My Logo and the US Department Of Transportation

(UPDATED AFTER COMMENTS 3/28)

I don’t think many of you know this, but my company started spontaneously and with literally no notice.  Super short version of my story, I had retired from photography, invented a lighting device, and it wound up selling quickly.    I didn’t have a business plan, or investors, or anything.  I just had an injection mold company make me 300 custom designed large plastic diffusers.  I was planning on keeping about 10 of them, and selling the other 290 to help pay for the tooling costs (about $12,000).  I figured if I sold them for $39 each, I would get these cool diffusers for free.

I sold all 290 the first evening. I was sending the first Lightspheres from my condo by US Postal Service with stamps on each box.  Me and my assistant Nicole sat up for hours pasting labels and putting them in plain brown boxes, no instructions, not even a receipt or packing slip.  The next day I got an additional 500 orders.  It just stayed that way, and instantly I had a business.

There was some Harvard Professor who asked his MBA class what was the most important factor in the success of a business.  a) Marketing Plan b) Adequate Financing or c) Customers.  Almost nobody chose (c) but that was the correct answer.  All you need is customers.  If you have a product and it becomes popular, you will need a shipping staff, a billing staff, a manager, customer service, etc.  The sales of the product will require that you support it with people and plant.  But you need customers.

Our first retail outlet was B&H.  I was invited to the NY headquarters to set up my products for their catalog.  This required product photos, description, and a logo.  I had none of those and I had a meeting to write our first order.  It was logo design time!

A logo is your brand.  Nearly every online guru will tell you that.  They also put too much emphasis on branding and not enough on product creation and support (too boring).  But since I knew my logo would be “me”, I had strong reasons for the design.

I always loved the Yin/Yang sign.  But that was taken.  Also the Yin/Yang symbol is static.  It is in balance, and therefore there is no motion.  Motion requires imbalance.  Having a third teardrop gave it stability and motion.  Three is a tripod.  It’s stable.  But three drops looks like spinning.  So it is stable motion.  That’s my company.  We’re stable.  We’re moving.  Look at my logo.  This is what I am expressing as my brand.

When we began trying for kids (with no luck), we went to a fertility lab.  They said my little swimmers had a good count and motility (speed).  What they didn’t know is that my little tadpoles had bent tails, and therefore swam in circles!  That’s one of the reasons we needed help having kids.

We wound up with three fertilized eggs, one with a lower grade of quality, and they only wanted to put in two (to avoid the “octomom” situation).  Those two became Wesley and Willow.

Get it?  Three spinning tadpoles?  How weird (and prophetic) was this?

So with all of this personal meaning, I recently discovered the US Department of Transportation is using my logo.  Having won a federal trademark jury decision, I know that there is little likelihood of confusion between me and the US Government, so I would not really have a good claim to trademark infringement.  So, no injunction will prevent it.  It stays.

UPDATE: I just read the comments below and the USDOT has been using this logo since 1980!!  I paid a logo designer $1,500 to design mine!!!!  He asked what I was trying to do, and I gave the comments, and he came up with this.  We actually registered this trademark, so it survived the search as well as publication.

I'm an author, photographer, entrepreneur, musician, husband and parent of twins. And most currently, screenwriter

Comments (5)

  • Reply

    Hi Gary,

    The object you created is called a triskelion.
    According to the DOT Historian’s home page, their logo was adopted on February 1, 1967, and represents air, sea and land.
    http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:US_Dept_of_Transportation_1967_Official_Seal.jpg

  • Reply

    It would have been a moot point anyhow. They DOT has been using that logo since 1980, and the one prior to that was virtually identical.

  • Reply

    The current US Transportation logo was updated in 1980. So I don’t think they stole the idea from you.

  • Reply

    Gary
    Leave it up to the government to have little to no imagination to design their own logo, or not to steal from the very people who pays their salary! Great story.

  • Reply

    My father works for the Federal Highway Administration and this design became the official logo in 1980. It’s been around for awhile – I’ve had that logo on t-shirts, hats, and mugs my entire life 🙂

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