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The Yellow Pages “Walking Fingers”: The Most Famous Symbol Never Trademarked

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Nearly all of the most familiar symbols in the world belong solely to their respective companies, with the exception of one of the most well-known: the famous “Walking Fingers” symbol of the Yellow Pages. Surprisingly, neither the symbol nor the Yellow Pages name are protected by copyright or federal trademark registration. 

AT&T, the creator of the most famous three-fingered version, never applied for a trademark, an oversight noted as one of the most remarkable in corporate branding history. Although the company did trademark a different version of the symbol, AT&T itself did not consider the three-fingers symbol to be proprietary, or solely owned, and allowed any company — even its competitors —  to use it on its own telephone directories.

Today, almost every independent directory publisher uses some form of the famous symbol and all are free to create their own versions. Although some companies have developed their own unique, new symbols, most stay close to the original. Even BellSouth developed a new symbol and slogan — a light bulb, with the tagline “Get an idea” — but abandoned both after just two years, returning to the original “Walking Fingers” symbol. The symbol is deeply ingrained in the minds of consumers and businesses, so iconic that no other symbol of Yellow Pages directories has yet to gain wide acceptance.

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