American Airlines’ ‘Uncreative’ Logo Leaves It In State Of Copyright Turbulence

Home Design American Airlines’ ‘Uncreative’ Logo Leaves It In State Of Copyright Turbulence

Image via Sorbis /

Even though American Airlines unveiled its logo in 2013, the brand continues to face issues securing a copyright for the visual.

In a five-page document, Catherine Zaller Rowland, who is senior advisor to the register of copyrights, called “the final decision in this matter.”

“A mere simplistic arrangement of non-protectable elements does not demonstrate the level of creativity necessary to warrant protection.”

While the airlines has the image trademarked to prevent other US carriers and tourism organizations from utilizing it inside marketing materials, an approved copyright would warrant the airlines with longer and broader protection on an international scale.

The logo, which resembles a white eagle’s head nudging through a diagonal line colored blue at the top and red at the bottom, was adopted after American Airlines merged with US Airways to become the world’s largest airline.

An application for the copyright was filed on 3 June 2016. This was rejected in a letter dated 4 October 2016, after a registration specialist deemed it lacking “the authorship necessary to support a copyright claim.”

In a letter requesting reconsideration on 20 December 2016, the airlines argued that its logo “far exceeds the extremely low level of creativity required to sustain a copyright claim.”

This, however, was once again rejected. According to a letter dated 12 April 2017 by attorney-advisor Stephanie Mason, the office maintained:

“[The logo] does not contain a sufficient amount of original and creative artistic or graphic authorship to support a copyright registration.”

The copyright board emphasized an enduring requirement from the Copyright Act that bars registration pertaining to “familiar symbols or designs; (and) mere variations of typographic ornamentation, lettering or coloring.”

“[U]se of the colors of the United States flag (red, white, and blue) are exceedingly common and do not lend themselves to arguments that the work’s design choices were especially creative.”

“In any event, even if a bird motif were unusual in this context, the work falls below the threshold for creativity required by the Copyright Act,” Rowland detailed.

Image via Vytautas Kielaitis /

[via USA Today, images via various sources]

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