It’s All Greek To Me.

Spring tears down math geek t-shirt listing because it dared to mention the trademarked word ‘zeta’

Data scientist told he faces ban, biz insists otherwise after pushback

On Tuesday, Tariq Rashid, a UK-based data scientist and author, tried to create a t-shirt design using on-demand print shop Spring to celebrate the Riemann zeta function, which is widely known among mathematicians and technical types.

“I thought I’d create a t-shirt of the function as it looks cool and is pretty famous,” Rashid told The Register. “The Clay Math Institute has a $100m prize for solving the Riemann Hypothesis.”

Rashid uploaded his design to Spring, formerly known as Teespring, so that it could be printed to order by netizens. The biz had other ideas. It removed Rashid’s design from its store because his item included the trademarked word “zeta” in its blurb.

Screenshot of Tariq Rashid's Riemann zeta function t-shirt

The t-shirt design Rashid tried to create … Click to enlarge

When Rashid emailed Spring to object that zeta is a common mathematical term, the company’s legal team replied: “We completely understand your concerns about our keyword block. As you are aware, Zeta is a letter of the Greek Alphabet. The Greek alphabet is currently protected legally by the Affinity Client Services. Due to this ownership and the takedowns we have received, we must police our platform for content using ‘Zeta.'”

The legal eagles later said it had reviewed Rashid’s content and “placed it back into active status because it does not violate current ownership.” That said, that particular listing was not made publicly available again as we’ll explain later.

Affinity Consultants, based in Carlsbad, California, for more than two decades has been coordinating trademark licensing oversight for various Greek-lettered organizations – fraternities and sororities – that use combinations of Greek letters to identify themselves.

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