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Apple Of Their i: Apple Sues Aussie Woolworths Over Trademark

Posted by Stephanie Startz on October 6, 2009 10:20 AM

Mother Nature, watch out. Apple Inc. is on the warpath against any and all use of apples in corporate logos.

After highly publicized lawsuits against The Beatles, The City of New York, and a Canadian business school, Apple has set their litigious gaze on Australian supermarket chain Woolworths (not part of the US "five and dime" retailer).

Aussie Woolworths introduced their logo, an apple formed by a cursive "W" topped with a right-leaning leaf, in August 2008 to little fanfare. According to Daily Finance, it wasn't until they submitted a trademark application to place the icon on new consumer products -- including electronic goods -- that Apple's interest was piqued. Apple claims that the Woolworths logo will compete for market share and create confusion in the minds of consumers.

The two logos bear little resemblance beyond the fruit that bore them. Apple Inc.'s logo protectionism starts to seem desperate, ultimately a disservice to the brand. Instead of pursuing legal action against so-called "imitators," with far-fetched claims that that consumers may confuse an Aussie supermarket with the maker of the iPod, Apple should embrace the apple's spread across popular culture.

The Apple logo is an marginal identifier in Apple products. Consumers go to stores looking for an "i", as in iPod, iPhone or iMac, not an Apple.

Apple doesn't need to worry. Its consumers are keen observers of brands and hyperaware of suspicious imitators. They know what they're getting when they buy Apple. They love the logo and brand packaging, but they respond to Apple because of it offers an established record as the premier company for service, performance and cutting-edge technology.

What do you think? Is Apple going too far, or is it right to be concerned about use of the apple by companies whose goods may encroach upon consumer electronics? And is their claim on the apple so overriding that they have the right to block all these uses?


GoRetroGirl United States says:

Seems ridiculous - the Woolworth's logo, if anything, looks more like Apple Records then Apple. Besides, didn't Apple Records come before Apple? I doubt this is a lawsuit they would win.

October 6, 2009 01:10 PM #

custom dissertation United States says:

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March 12, 2010 05:21 AM #

Mickey Australia says:

Ridiculous! Apple is doing it's savvy target market a great injustice if it thinks this will confuse them.
Woolworths is a retailing dynamo on the Australian supermarket scene, and as a customer of theirs I cannot even think of a single electronics product one could vaguely relate to or confuse with anything in the 'i' range.
Look a little closer at their logo "The Fresh Food People" Gee I think I'll turn my back on one of the most successful global electronics brands in history and buy a 'w-Pod" from the people who specialise in selling me my fresh fruit and veg!
If they did any research into consumer perceptions of the two brands they would realise just what nonsense this is!
It smacks of either paranoia or bully tactics to me.

October 6, 2009 05:36 PM #

AllyL Australia says:

Totally agree. Apple are being Wallys about Woollies!

October 7, 2009 09:01 PM #

Gary Ludwig Canada says:

Before anyone denounces Apple's activities here it would be only appropriate to look at them in the context of trademark law. It isn't necessarily that Apple feels threatened by an Australian food store having an apple as a logo. It is more likely Apple's legal counsel flagging the longer term implications of letting another company put an apple-like logo on consumer electronics without Apple challenging their right to do so.

October 7, 2009 02:31 AM #

Abe S United States says:

I agree. This seems to be due diligence on behalf of the counsel. However I would also say that such a personal-characterless approach to brand protection -- the kind one might find at *GASP* Microsoft -- isn't reflecting well on Apple as the little creative guy fighting the mass consumer man.

October 7, 2009 02:28 PM #

Hugo Arantes Carlos Brazil says:

It's true that they may, and should be aware of imitators. But it seems they are reaching too far.
Even if a company were to brand electronics with a logo that is inspired by an apple, it wouldn't be grounds for Apple to try to make them change, unless it really resembles the characteristics of the company logo other than the idea of the fruit itself. It's basic branding and a well known risk of branding with simple ideas. They may be great but there isn't much to protect. Hundreds of companies used apples before Apple, and apples, ind the end, are just apples...
Either way, I don't think Apple should worry.

October 7, 2009 04:19 PM #

John Ryan Ireland says:

What about the BBC's on line player which is called the i-Player, how have they escaped the wrath of Apple's lawyers?

October 7, 2009 02:57 AM #

Nigel Lamb United Kingdom says:

I love apple and I love apple products, but why do they seem to lose a sense of perspective over little things? It seems an over reaction to me, even if it opens the way for others to put pictures of apples on electronic goods. If it comes to a point in the future where a consumer doesn't notice the difference between an 'apple' branded product and another product with a apple type logo, then apple have lost their way, and logo's won't be the biggest thing they need to worry about.

October 7, 2009 03:19 AM #

Khalid AlShuail Saudi Arabia says:

I would've understand if Woolworths used "i" in their product or services, but using an apple by whole or partially, I think they going too far, moreover, the copy / art / work rights will no longer "rights" if you have adjusted or changed 30% of the item, where I see no relation at all of the two brands which may lead to concern of mixed up or confusion (artwork, color scheme and typeface) are far different between them.

However, maybe all this claims and moves are messages to other party who they aim to warn, or they trying to brought attention to "Apple" as brand especially that people could remember "Mac" and "i" and forget about the mother "Apple"

October 7, 2009 03:22 AM #

Srikkanth India says:

I think they have lost it - what next? Will they go after McDonalds for using the name "Mac" in their product offerings? Like people actually get confused with a visual of a huuuge computer when someone yells BigMac ? Ridiculous!

October 7, 2009 04:25 AM #

Tony Mammoliti Australia says:

Give it up and get a Job(s) — I use nothing but Apple products but this is just 'stoopid'.

The legal boys (and girls) have nothing better to do.

October 7, 2009 04:53 AM #

maimon Malaysia says:

I think they are over reacting big time! Should have more confidence in their customers being able to differentiate what their brand stand for! There is not much resemblance between the logos pleeeessssssse!

October 7, 2009 04:58 AM #

John Ryan Ireland says:


October 7, 2009 05:25 AM #

Patrick United States says:

Silly. If the offending company did business in electronics, it would be another matter. Consumers aren't that stupid to be confused over the symbol.

October 7, 2009 06:56 AM #

Gabrielle Jackson United Kingdom says:

The action is more damaging to the Apple brand than Woolworths' apple-like logo. I am a loyal Apple fan with i-Phones and i-Books and MacBooks galore, but this annoys me. Since when could you trademark a piece of fruit? It stinks!

October 7, 2009 07:04 AM #

Alvin G Australia says:

To be honest, I didn't really notice the resemblance of the Woolworths Logo to an apple.. not until I read that they were taking legal action.

October 7, 2009 08:48 AM #

Simon Jacobson United Kingdom says:

All I can think of is that Apple have plans to own the High St, so want no confusion over retail branding in that space, even then this seems a bit excessive to me.

October 7, 2009 09:05 AM #

Khalid AlShuail Saudi Arabia says:

well, I did some search about the case, the problem is when woolworths sell Apple computers.. the claim of overlapping is their, however, I don't think Apple lawyers have seen this

what you think they might do now?

October 7, 2009 09:11 AM #

Mike Diefenbach United States says:

Yeah, this legal tussle is silly indeed. If I were Woolworths, I'd be more concerned about how well the logo serves them. As much as the symbol is an admirable stylization of the letter "W" to look like an apple, why do that at all?  The only company names that merit such treatment are those with short or abbreviated names where the name CAN BE the symbol (such as IBM & GE). They would nave been much better served by some graphic treatment of the entire Woolworths name with one or more fresh food items imbedded in it (say, in place of one or more of the "O"s).

October 7, 2009 09:27 AM #

andrew United States says:

absurd. ridiculous. terrible for their brand to do shit like this.

October 7, 2009 12:28 PM #

MANUEL ALVAREZ El Salvador says:

what??? unnecessary

October 7, 2009 08:09 PM #

John Australia says:

I wonder if this means they'll stop DS/DSE/Tandy from selling apple products. This could have implications far beyond woolworths ltd having to change the logo.

October 10, 2009 03:40 AM #

teena United States says:

Ok, I'm going to jump off the "poo on Apple" bandwagon here because I know that little apple would make me at least do a double take and put a question in my mind if I saw it on some electronics. I think the Aussie Woolworth's folks might have thought of that, too.

Too bad it's a big guy and a little guy, but you don't get to be a big guy by not watching out for your branding.

October 14, 2009 04:53 PM #

Simon New Zealand says:

I have to agree with teena, brands are precious these days and should be defended at all costs.

October 15, 2009 02:47 PM #

faxless payday loans United States says:

Just try to smile for about 2-3 mins then you can get back to work

November 30, 2009 04:04 PM #

Boiler Insurance United States says:

"What do you think? Is Apple going too far" - well the danger here is that the corporate mindset in Apple gets so excited over their recent brand victories that they decide that they own the letter 'i' also.

Imagine all the lawsuits that will follow against any corporation that dares to use a letter 'i' in any of their marketing comms!

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