EDIT: On closer inspection of one of the articles I linked to, it appears clear that the original logo is indeed trademarked, though I still don't understand why Wikipedia lists it as public domain. Anyway, I edited my question because I'd like to know if replacing "NY" with another state postal code would be legal. Or would a facsimile of the original logo with a different type face or arrangement be legal?
One of the most famous logos on the planet is probably the acronym ILNY ("I Love New York"), substituting a red heart for the letter L. Wikipedia has picture of it, describing it as lying in the public domain.
The logo has been widely copied and modified, with versions replacing NY with other state postal codes. I believe some of these versions have even appeared on license plates, which would seem to confirm that the variations are at least in the public domain.
I'm working on a book about state symbols. Just to be on the safe side, I decided to trace the origin of the logo and determine if anyone claims legal jurisdiction over it.
I was told that not only is the ILNY logo not in the public domain, but all variations are prohibited from use without permission as well. I was denied permission to use the logo in my book.
Below are a couple key communications:
To confirm, the New York State Department of Economic Development (NYSDED) is the exclusive owner of the federally registered I LOVE NY® logo (it is not in the public domain). NYSDED uses the iconic I LOVE NY® logo to promote all regions of New York State. Unfortunately, I have confirmed that NYSDED is not able to approve use of its logo in connection with your request below. In addition, at this time NYSDED is not able to approve variations of its logo substituting any portion of the mark with another element. In order to avoid potential infringement, we encourage you to consider alternative designs that do not copy or encroach on the famous I LOVE NY logo. You may also wish to consult with a trademark attorney if you have questions concerning clearance of a new design.
Brand Sense Partners is the licensing agency for the I Love NY logo and we handle most of these types of inquiries for the State of New York.
I just wanted to get a second opinion. Do you think this image really is legally protected, or do you think they're just trying to intimidate me? And is it credible to suggest that even a variation, such as I(heart)VT is illegal?
I imagine Wikipedia can get away with using the image because 1) Wikipedia is technically a non-profit, and 2) Wikipedia is Wikipedia; it has the legal resources to defend itself. However, I'm amazed that Wikipedia would label this image public domain if it isn't. Granted, the owners of the logo can't police the entire Internet, but surely they'd contact Wikipedia and tell them to stop promoting the image as public domain - especially after my correspondence with them.
In summary, I think variations of the I(heart)NY logo are indeed in the public domain, and I suspect the original logo may be as well. But I don't want to make any mistakes that could get me sued.
I may have answered my own question. I just found another Wikipedia article that describes the logo as trademarked, though when you click on the logo it's again labeled "public domain." Maybe this is just sloppy work on Wikipedia's part.
Also, note the image of the logo (with no credit or attribution) @ http://www.netstate.com/states/symb/slogans/ny_slogan.htm and the photograph of a shirt bearing the logo @ https://statesymbolsusa.org/symbol-official-item/new-york/state-cultural-heritage/i-love-ny