New York patents skyline view

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The Independent Online
THE NEW YORK offices of this paper command quite a view. You can spy the Chrysler Building, the skyscraper at Rockefeller Center and its sculpture of Atlas on Fifth Avenue. Any one of these might make a nice logo for a column from this city.

Stop right there. Just because these structures and others might seem like the landmarks that define Manhattan in the eyes of the world, it does not mean they belong to the world. They belong to the people who own them. Increasingly, these people have no desire to share them around.

Their weapon is the trademark. Trademarks exist for the Chrysler Building and the New York Stock Exchange facade and no small amount of folk will need to pay heed, includingsouvenir hawkers, for whom green erasers shaped like the Chrysler Building and such are the bread and butter of their trade. Hollywood needs to worry too - Godzilla should be careful before kicking over the Flatiron building. "The owners of the trademarks want to make sure that they are not disparaged or demeaned," said Keri Christ of the law firm Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy, representing the owners of the Chrysler Building, Flatiron and Rockefeller Center. "The word is pretty much out there that these are protected designs and that the owners are very serious about protecting the integrity of their designs."

The concern is that the image of the Chrysler, for instance, as an upscale location for potential tenants, might be damaged if its likeness is attached to products of uncertain quality. Like a newspaper column. But even an upscale rip-off attracts lawyers. Thus Fishs Eddy, a posh chain of tableware stores, is doing battle with Ms Christ and her client. Its best-selling plates have a naive sketch of the New York skyline, including a wobbly rendition of the Chrysler Building. So far, Fishs Eddy has shown no inclination to discontinue the plates or at least remove the Chrysler from its rim design. On the contrary, it is relishing the publicity.