1938 Original Manuscript for 1939 1st Edition BigBook Searchable 1976 3rd Edition BigBook On-Line
The Prescription
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The Truth of what happened to
The Triangle In The Circle

From Rick T., Area 20 Archivist, Illinois

Metaphysics and copyrights aside, anyone can still use the circle and triangle logo! It's just not the "official" trade mark for Alcoholics Anonymous anymore...Since 1993, lawyers advised the General Service Board that the copyright on the logo was unenforceable.

I remember the reports generating out of the Board and an Ad Hoc Committee meeting in January 1993 (two months before the General Service Conference). The Ad Hoc committee of Delegates and Trustees (chosen from a cross-section of AA Regions) came to the conclusion that recommended a simple phrase replacing it in all the AAWS printing and publications from the Conference forward "This is A.A. General Service Conference-approved literature."

The Conference also agreed with this idea, and by the beginning of May 1993 a notice was sent out by the General Service Board that AAWS, Inc. would discontinue the use of the Circle and Triangle logo in its then-existing formats (1) blank, 2) with "AA" in the center of the triangle, 3) with "AA" and General Service Conference on the outside of the triangle, and 4) "AA" and Recovery, Unity, Service outside the triangle - those were accepted uses by AA through that 1993 announcement).

The logo had been used officially from 1957 to 1993, and that's thirty-six years of uncontested usage - until the General Service Board thought to ask the medallion and coin makers to "cease and desist" using it. For a time in 1991-92 the coin manufacturers complied (to this member, with unsightly results...), but somewhere in 1992 decided to re-negotiate and contest the Board's position. Not that the case ever went to trial as a violation of copyright law; advice to the Board was that the copyright was either not renewed (in 1976, the Big Book copyright was unfortunately not renewed by an oversight error of omission in legal advice to the GSB, too!) or completely unenforceable, perhaps due to the compliance of the coin makers not using it (some who claimed or threatened to claim their own copyright in the coin formats, etc.).

To remedy a pretty bad legal situation, the Conference heard the recommendation of simply using the 'conference-approved' phrase on literature. Where much discussion for a few years centered on AA going into the business of minting its own coins (definitely an outside issue), and suing the coin makers (against the 'spirit and letter' of the 12 Concepts for World Service--avoiding lawsuits whenever possible), the "catch-22" choices were evident, and the Conference recommendation was a workable solution.

I have a friend and past Delegate who is also a lawyer, and he shared with me, that if anyone can put together a terrible process of lawsuits, it's us...no wonder we are advised against litigation, especially on outside issues. Did you know that upside down, the blank logo is the symbol for an air raid shelter? We had even found the same circle and triangle on manhole covers in Illinois (old ones from the Elgin City Water Dept.). You can imagine the view that any copyright court might take on this if we had followed through with long litigation - it would almost be the question asked "are you joking?"

Today we can have a bit of fun discussing our use and its current "unofficial" status. The official logo was a beautiful part of our past, when the 1993 Conference also allowed that many AAs, AA events, etc. would still be using our circle and triangle logo, and there would be no interference in that. Of course, now we don't "own" the logo, but as far as I know, no one does... Perhaps you'll use it in the same spirit used in our past years, but don't worry about infringing on another's copyright. Use your own judgment, seek an informal consensus, but lightly take the above ideas into consideration. The circle and triangle is not "banned by A.A.," just discontinued since 1993 as a trademark.

Love and Peace, Barefoot

Index of AA History Pages on Barefoot's Domain

As in so many things, especially with we alcoholics, our History is our Greatest Asset!.. We each arrived at the doors of AA with an intensive and lengthy "History of Things That Do Not Work" .. Today, In AA and In Recovery, Our History has added an intensive and lengthy "History of Things That DO Work!!" and We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it!!

ABC Page 60 from the Big Book



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