Nowadays, it seems they're quasi-governmental, but back then I think they were strictly a national org. It'd be like DARPA trying to get royalties on the internet or something similar. I could be wrong in this line of thinking, of course.
For the record, the Department Of Defense frequently applied for new patents, many which I presume come from DARPA research.
See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I_Love_New_York for one famous example.
So, while you are right about the ability of a gov to register and/or patent things, I'm surprised they'd be willing to follow through. It's not as though Apple is trying to make money off of them by selling a knock off product or piggybacking on an advert campaign.
Good point none the less and thanks for the explanation.
It's not about money being made, it's a legal necessity that a trademark owner needs to actively defend the mark in order to keep it.
Sometimes the claims of infringement are upheld, sometimes not. The more important thing, legally, is that NY needs to show that they are actively defending the mark to prevent trademark dilution.
In the USA, the government cannot have copyright and everything is in the public domain. This is not the case in many other countries.
This is an overly broad statement. Federal government agencies in the USA can hold copyright in certain situations, and the rule doesn't apply to state or local government.
This is a really interesting page that lists ways that the government can own copyrighted works.
(Also the design that Apple lifted is trademarked, not copyright, but that's a different issue).