US Company Claims Ownership Of Plimsoll Mark

I think I would tell them to pound sand …

The depiction of a legitimate nautical symbol that has been in use for a century puts it in the public domain. If for no other reason but to poke the offending company with a sharp stick, add the load line text (TF F WNA,) to the graphic … maybe put GC in place of an IACS member.

But since they don’t have a trademark on the symbol they appear to be just another ambulance chasing law firm trying to scam a victim because they can. The trademark they do have is for Plimsoll and that is all it is, it does not cover the symbol and as long as the GC t-shirt doesn’t say Plimsoll how could it be an infringement?

Unfortunately the scumbag ambulance chasers depend on their victims or insurance companies to “settle” out of court because there really is no telling which way a jury might go. The only people to benefit by this foul system are the lawyers so settlement is the rule rather than the exception.

If you want to fight this John, put me down for a $100 legal defense donation.

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Navy load line marks on USNS Grasp. Kind of a sideways asterisk.


Oh, that tiny insect is the load line mark.
I always thought it was the mark where commercial vessels could aim at…


No silly, the navee boats go to them.

I presume those are permissible angles of trim indicated by the diagonal lines?

“She’s down by the head a good deal, sir.”
“Nonsense, we’re not even close to the line!”


Our mark alreay uses different letters. It looks way different too (ours is a much simpler design).

He has trademarks for both:

Here is a link to the actual claim:

“Why do you think that?”

“I can see the butt hole”


You are not advertising to the general public or trying to get your shirts into a retail store. You are offering them to a very select (and mostly professional mariner) membership and readership who wish to support the site and contribute to a maritime charity

It looks like if you remove the Plimsoll name from the ad there couldn’t possibly be any confusion by the general public. Just call them Load Line shirts.

Let’s start a “go fund me page” to fight the assholes.


Don’t they only put those on laid up ships?

They put fluorescent orange portable ones fore and aft on submarines alongside. I don’t think the US Navy has sunk a submarine alongside the pier since they started that practice.

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I am given to understand the gravestone of the great man is marked with his famous mark.

I wonder if the ambulance chasing lawyers will be willing to insist that the mark is removed from the offending gravestone. If not, they can go hang.


The word’s getring out.

P.S. Thanks @Earl_Boebert1


Happy to help. Based on the comments, Ars Technica readers like your shirts :slight_smile:




I’ve been reading this thread with interest, and digging through the Trademark policies and caselaw. It seems clear that the company has co-opted a common well-known mark. I have to wonder if the reviewing attorney was in Nebraska and had never seen a ship.

I did some searching for similar. We’ve all seen ‘common’ symbols and marks on clothing and other matter. I was thinking to examine stop signs or other traffic symbols and if anything had come of that–since that would be a parallel to a loadline mark. I found one–M22. The Michigan Attorney general opinion has some good caselaw references and buried in a couple of those, are a few more. It seems to me inherent distincitiveness of origin is part of the matter. Origination and public domain another. Has the mark, such as it is become, inherently distinctive with the originator (PlimosllGear) when applied to these products. I don’t think so. If anything, their own registration application identifies the mark as consisting of a ‘plimsoll mark’ - so they acknowledge a distinction to the mark in their application by reference to it’s proper name on its own, affirming its a well known mark, just demanding a questionable protection as ‘originator’ when used on clothes and such, but the distinctiveness just isn’t there. But it also over 5 years old and I don’t know how that will affect challenges. If no one has challenged for marking similar products in the fashion then sure, a case could be made, but because it is a well-known symbol, that has to be considered public domain… hmmmmm…

Anyway–interesting topic.

The MI Attorney General Opinion

NOTE: It’s not a true parallel, since that case differs here, since it was the marks true originator–Michigan–who had given it to public domain, and brought an action to prevent use by a commercial company which wouldn’t favor gCaptain’s use either and is different than two users with one claiming infringement. But, the opinion does present some useful considerations, especially marks that are in the public domain.

"Because the State of Michigan, the creator of the design, placed the Michigan highway route marker design in the public domain, no entity can lawfully obtain intellectual property protection of the design under trademark or copyright law. The two corporations at issue could not gain copyright protection over the Michigan highway route marker design because neither created the design. See 17 USC 201(a)-(b). And under the Supreme Court’s decision in Dastar, they cannot use trademark law to perpetually protect a design that they did not create and is in the public domain. The fact that they have appropriated the design from the public domain and affixed it to merchandise offered for sale does not create a legitimate basis for trademark protection. To do so would create a “mutant copyright” over works in the public domain that the Supreme Court has specifically sought to avoid. Dastar, 539 US at 34. "

Note: this is an AG opinion, not a court opinion, not caselaw. I haven’t dug through Dastar.


Scroll to the bottom…

I wonder how the lawyers may view this?

Well, obviously the leg has to go. That also opens an opportunity for a malpractice suit. Win win for the legal bottom feeders.

Nice attaboy for John in an Ars Technica comment, which quotes the announcement of the $10 donation and then goes on to say:

That, kids, is how you’re supposed do it. Anyone in a customer-facing industry should be taking notes.
No counter-accusations, shit-slinging, or personal attacks. No cutting off the nose to spite the face, or taking the ball and going home. No Drama-with-a-capital-D.
Just a classy and calmly worded statement of position, and closely followed by a charitable act to boot.
Good game Mr. Konrad. I’m not a hugely nautical type of guy, although I did pick up a thing or two from my G’Pa while he was still with us, a builder of four timber watercraft. I’ll definitely be checking out gCaptain’s site and products.