Europe’s Answer To “I Love New York”: The Official Trademark Of Venice

by Foley Hoag LLP - Trademark, Copyright & Unfair Competition
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Foley Hoag LLP - Trademark, Copyright & Unfair Competition

This summer, I was lucky enough to vacation with family and friends in Venice, Italy.  Highlights included seeing the traditional city sights, riding around the canals in a gondola, seeing glass being blown on the Island of Murano, and eating wonderful food.  Lowlights included knocking down a stop sign with our rental car (my brother’s driving skills have sadly not improved over the years) and getting eaten alive by bugs (a theme that runs through all of my summer vacations).  We saw the winged Lion of Saint Mark everywhere, as it is the official symbol of Venice, and many tourists challenge their children to count all of the winged lions that they see as they walk through the city.  In 2003, the winged lion was incorporated into the official trademark of Venice.

According to information posted on the websites of the City of Venice and its affiliate Vela, Venice was the first Italian city to couple an institutional symbol with a logo for commercial purposes and cause-related marketing.  The logo consists of a depiction of the winged lion, superimposed over a V, with the word Venezia (Italian for Venice) optionally running up the right side.  At the time that the logo was being designed, the Mayor of Venice told a reporter from the Japan Times that some 2,000 companies use the “I Love New York” logo, resulting in millions of dollars each year in royalties, and that he believes that Venice is the first city in Europe to take this approach.  For an interesting history of the iconic “I Love New York” logo, see our prior blog post here.

The Venice trademark was created for the twofold purpose of presenting a consistent image of the city in the global market and generating revenue, with part of the proceeds to be invested in programs for the socio-economic revitalization of the city.  To aid in its licensing efforts, the city published a snazzy trademark usage manual providing numerous examples of permitted and non-permitted images.

The Venice trademark has been registered in Italy and dozens of other countries around the world, although I note that the trademark filings in the United States have lapsed.  This is presumably because the Venice trademark is not actually being used in US commerce – unlike many other countries, the US does not allow applicants to warehouse marks, and foreign marks must eventually be used in US commerce in order to maintain their registered status.

So, is the Venice trademark a smashing success and raking in the revenue on the scale of “I Love New York,” as hoped?  That is unclear at best.  I didn’t see the Venice trademark when I was touring Venice, although in fairness I was not exactly looking for it.  I did, however, expect to see the Venice trademark on the home page of the City of Venice website.  But it is not there, nor does it appear on the Wikipedia page for Venice.  So, one might be tempted to conclude that Venetians don’t love Venice as much as New Yorkers love New York, but having seen how beautiful Venice is, I don’t think that is it – I suspect they are just not that into trademarks.  Plus, they need a catchy jingle.

The author would like to thank Theresa Canzoneri for her research assistance in preparing this article.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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