make it stop
Posted by Abe Sauer on March 15, 2010 06:37 PM
Last October, we reported on a brewing Apple trademark battle in Australia. Apple was suing Woolworth, an Australian supermarket, over its use of an apple for its brand logo. Apple claimed the logo would compete for market share and create confusion in the minds of consumers.
Well, it seems Apple's trademark adventures Down Under continue. In a new ruling, the tech giant has been told that it has no exclusive use of its vaunted "i" prefix. More than just another trademark lawsuit loss, reports of questionable legal action on Apple's part is beginning to pile up and the brand that "thinks different" is beginning to look a lot like...*gasp*... 1990s Microsoft.
The brand that came into Apple's legal crosshairs this go-around is DOPi. Apple argued, "The emphasis given to the letter 'i' results in the consumer’s attention on seeing the mark being immediately deflected to that particular part of the mark. The eye thus having been drawn to that particular part of the mark will perceive the very different treatment given to the letter 'i'... The manner of that depiction would immediately bring to the consumer’s mind the association of the mark 'i' with [Apple] and its family of 'i' products, especially the iPod musical player..."
In rejecting Apple's claim, the trademark officer noted, "Apple has not therefore demonstrated to my satisfaction that the person of ordinary intelligence and memory would be caused to wonder, or be left in doubt, about whether the Goods come from Apple merely because the Trade Mark terminates in the letter "i," however that letter may be presented. Nor do I think the fact that the Trade Mark is made up of the letters of the Apple’s IPOD trade mark in reverse order would cause a significant or substantial number of relevant consumers to wonder whether the Goods were those of the Apple."
Essentially, if you have a device and want to put an "i" suffix or prefix on it, go for it (in Australia anyway).
The bigger concern for the Apple brand here is the seemingly increasing pettiness of its actions in the name of defending its brand. It is understandable, and likely, that Apple's legal team is simply being diligent and puffing its chest as a show of seriousness about its trademarks. Yet, the brand's PR team should realize that Apple is not just any other brand; its actions, however routine, make the press and everyday consumers see such actions not as those of a meticulous brand, but as those of a bully.