in which i am extremely disappointed in project semicolon

Project Semicolon started a fantastic global movement. You’ve all probably seen the semicolon tattoos and images around, and know that it’s SOMETHING to do with mental health. Here’s why: “The semicolon is used when a sentence could have ended, but didn’t.”

That’s really powerful stuff.

So powerful in fact that I immediately donated to their charity and shared their cause as often as I possibly could.

And it became a cool code that we could share with others who were in the know. Tattoos were popping up everywhere, and jewellery for those who couldn’t take a tattoo (hi there). More than anything, it was about spreading awareness for mental health, suicide prevention and combatting stigma.

Or so it was said.

Suddenly, we had this symbol, this unifier, this great, powerful icon of inspiration to keep living.

Let them explain more (emphasis mine):


Within the belief that suicide is generally preventable, the mission of Project Semicolon is to help reduce the incidents of suicide in the world through connected community and greater access to information and resources. We believe that suicide prevention is the collective responsibility of each and every person on the planet.

And their slogan:

It’s not just a semicolon; it’s hope, it’s inspiration, it’s who. we. are.

Let that last one linger a moment.

It’s hope. It’s inspiration. It’s who. we. are.

It is. It has taken on so much meaning for so many people, myself included.

When I first set up my business, I started to make cross stitch kits with quotes on, and ones with semicolons on.

The semicolon ones don’t tend to sell that well, I’m not going to lie. I probably make about £30-£50 a year on them. BUT they help get me found by people who are my target audience, and I rely on the money I make from Etsy to prop me up so that I don’t have to work full time. I just can’t because of my MENTAL HEALTH problems.

Many others I know, in the creative circles, also are housebound, or aren’t able to work because of their MENTAL HEALTH problems. So they do what they can to earn a little bit of cash, and sometimes that is by working on things that are close to their heart. Like semicolons.

When I started my business, I went to great lengths to ensure that I was not breaching any copyright, intellectual property, and not implying I was in any way affiliated to the official charity. And I mean come on, nobody would trademark a punctuation mark …. right?!

Yeah so they did. Just recently.

I got my infringement warning this evening.

Now, as I said, I don’t make lots of money on these, but they pay for a car full of petrol over a year. They help me get found by others. And do you know what, the people who do buy them LOVE them. They MEAN something to them. They are a symbol of resistance to the SHIT THAT GETS YOU DOWN.

Well, Project Semicolon, you have gotten me down.

I understand that you don’t want people profiting off your idea. I do. But think about who these small scale attacks fundamentally and disproportionately affect. It’s people like me, too depressed to go to work full time who like to help people. It’s people like me who run small businesses and have time to do actual awareness-raising things. It’s people like me who CARE about mental health awareness. It’s not big businesses mass producing t-shirts. Take them down. Go for it.

I thought that we were all on the same team? Fighting stigma and helping people with suicidal feelings? I’ve worked so hard, and I have had a lot – A LOT – of positive feedback on how I am helping people. I felt like I was doing what you claimed to be trying to do. I thought we were allies in this. Together. Recognisable by our secret symbol from across the ponds. Collective community and all that?

It feels personal. It feels like you let me into this secret club. Allowed me to become attached to this movement. And then kicked me out.

It feels like you’ve actually gone and trademarked a piece of PUNCTUATION. It feels like you told me to think of it as part of me, of my own story, and then took it away from me. Made me afraid of using it. It feels like you’re focusing on small businesses. It feels like you’re honing in on the very people who you need to help, and stopping them from helping others.

I will take down my semi colon pieces.

You win.

But think about who the “enemy” is here.
Think about the end game.
What is the vision for the future?

Isn’t it exactly what we’re all aiming for?

So why are you being a ****?


Peace and love,
Amy ;;;;;;;;;;;;

PS. I am sending this onto them so will let you know if I get any reply.

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13 Responses to in which i am extremely disappointed in project semicolon

  1. Allie 15th August 2017 at 9:29 pm #

    How and why would you trademark a semi colon – I mean does that mean we can’t use them in stories,texts, emails anymore??
    I completely understand why you’ve reacted in this way and you have pointed out very valid reasons. I hope it doesn’t get you down too much, I know how these things go. Chin up buttercup xx

    • Amy 15th August 2017 at 9:48 pm #

      Thank you lovely! Let’s hope they see sense! People over profit!

  2. Becca 15th August 2017 at 9:56 pm #

    What the actual f**k, how are they allowed to do that? Is the warning from them or from an official body? It’s like me saying I want to trademark the letter R?!

    • Amy 15th August 2017 at 10:02 pm #

      It’s not legal as far as I can see, it is basically a cease and desist sent to Etsy, who have sent it on with a “sort it out amongst yourselves” attitude. I hope they were just trying their luck without really thinking about the consequences?!

      • Wendy 16th August 2017 at 12:22 am #

        Ask them for details of the copyright registration number which you can then check here: You can then check out what is actually protected. (Assuming it is registered.) Surely their trademark would be project; not just the ; otherwise are all the people with ; tattoos going to have to get them removed!

        • Amy 16th August 2017 at 6:36 am #

          As it stands it is only registered in America so if i REALLY wanted to keep going, I could just switch off the shipping abroad option (although it would have to be for the whole shop not just the semi colon items). In the email etsy sent it appears like you say that they have trademarked the ‘project;’ rather than just the semicolon. However others who have been hit have said they are claiming the image of the thing is also theirs. This is just a recent thing, and the semicolon on its own has never been their logo which is what makes this very disappointing! Hopefully they will reply with more information. Xxx

          • Wendy 16th August 2017 at 12:50 pm #

            Would definitely be helpful to know exactly what’s protected because I can’t see how they could just protect a semi-colon. They could protect it in a certain font/colour scheme – as in say the Nike tick – there are lots of signs/symbols that are like that but saying that your semi-colons infringe copyright seems ridiculous. Unfortunately most of the people affected by this will not be in a position to take a stand due to costs etc but it does seem like they are just about making money. Hopefully their profits are going to good causes. Just seems petty xx Can you add something else onto your goods to make it not just a semi-colon?

  3. Sarah 16th August 2017 at 11:04 am #

    I got one of those last night too…. they deactivated 3 semicolon items. Like you, I make a donation to Mind (Jersey) for each piece sold. I replied that I am in UK and that US trademarks aren’t enforced here. Of course Etsy Legal haven’t replied!! I wish I had the money to apply for the trademark here in UK (even though I think trademarking a punctuation mark is totally ridiculous) to stop them bullying UK sellers via Etsy.
    I suffer from depression so this is a cause close to my heart, the fact that these people think they can ride roughshod over small businesses trying to raise awareness and much needed funds is disgraceful. I will continue to sell my jewellery from my website and just not post to US. Losing respect for Etsy though for not standing up for common sense.
    S xx

  4. Anita 16th August 2017 at 11:05 am #

    Had mine removed and they were for colon cancer who also use semi colon. They are just about money now and not what it was started out as and I will no longer support them. They are harming another charity who was actually using the semi colon before them

    • Tracy Hoole 17th August 2017 at 11:37 am #

      I am raging on your behalf!Is there some way to get this outrageous strong arm tactic out to a greater audience.?Etsy has got this soooo wrong.Totally for copyright etc….but targeting small honest businesses is totally unacceptable…

  5. Elaine 17th August 2017 at 10:57 am #

    I also had a listing taken down and I was donating from the sales to Bipolar UK – I think it stinks, we are all in the same boat and yet now it just all seems about the money for them.

  6. JinjaMakes 18th August 2017 at 7:54 am #

    What knobbers.
    I’d still sell them. Just make a collection of punctuation kits. !?@
    Maybe change the dot at the top to a heart?

    It’s pretty shameful of them considering you donate a % to a mental health charity.

  7. Sarah welch 27th September 2017 at 8:45 am #

    We should all get together and trademark it in the uk , so it stops this nonsense.

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