Bad Seeds: How Apple Reacts to Trademark Infringements
When it comes to trademark law, Apple doesn’t play around. Regardless of whether it’s about the well-known Apple logo or catchy product names with a lowercase i, anyone who uses the protected insignia without adequately marking them will receive a letter from top-class lawyers. The technology giant often takes action against small entrepreneurs, also from Finland. But what does all of this have to do with a cycle path near Bonn?
Update 11/08/2020: Apple Compares Apples to Pears
Update: The Prepear founders can breathe a sigh of relief: They were able to reach an out-of-court settlement with Apple. To do this, they only had to change their logo slightly and flatten the leaf on the stem of the pear. Since the adjustment is minimal, the start-up didn’t even have to register a new trademark. You can read about the dispute between Apple and the app operators here:
The operating company of the Prepear cooking app has five employees, who support users through shopping and cooking together. The company chose a stylised pear as its logo, which was a play on (prepare + pear). And it was precisely that pear that Apple didn’t like. Although Prepear and Apple have completely different business purposes, Apple took action against the logo with an injunction. They alleged the pear logo was clearly copied from Apple’s apple logo so there is a risk of confusion. According to its own statement, the dispute has already cost Prepear several thousand dollars, and a team member even had to leave because of it. Nevertheless, the small company doesn’t want to give up so easily and has launched a Change.org petition. Their goal is to have Apple withdraw their trademark complaint. The petition already has 72.000 supporters (as of: 14/08/2020). It remains to be seen whether Apple will soften its position. The other logo disputes you can read about here show that Apple doesn’t joke around with its logo:
Unplanned Attention for the Rhenish Apple Route
“Always bike around the apple”, it says on the website of the Rhein-Voreifel-Touristik e. V. (RVT). The association has been committed to the region since 2004 and sees itself as a point of contact for tourism. That’s why the association opened a themed cycle path called the “Rhenish Apple Route” on May 19th 2019, which aims to draw attention to the region’s agriculture and is supported by the European Regional Development Fund.
Like Comparing Apples with Apples ...
In the meantime, the route has received a lot of media attention, even if it’s only marginally related to the actual cycle path. It’s actually about the word / figurative mark chosen by the association, which shows the white silhouette of an apple with green leaves on a red background.
The logo had hardly been registered at the German Patent and Trademark Office (DPMA) in Munich when the association received a letter from the legal representatives of the technology giant Apple. They asked the RTV to limit the trademark registration to a few protection classes and also to change the green leaf. For example, protection class 6, if the signs are made of metal, and class 41, which deals with sporting and cultural activities, were mentioned.
David Against Goliath
The RTV then turned to a trademark lawyer who announced that the association was ready to restrict the trademark rights if Apple withdrew its objection. However, the association would not abandon the logo with the green leaf mentioned. Apple agreed to the deal. But the RTV still has legal fees in the low four-digit range, which it has to pay out of pocket.
Déjà-vu? Keep Your Hands off the Apple!
It’s not surprising if you’ve heard stories like this before. The international computer company keeps making headlines because of trademark disputes. At the beginning of March, the Norwegian Fremskrittpartiet (Frp) had problems when it wanted to protect its logo, which depicts a red apple with a green leaf. The party says it has been using the logo for 30 years. The Norwegian Patent Office grants a two-month deadline for filing a complaint – and in this case, too, a lawyer hired by Apple came forward. The parties are currently trying to avoid a direct conflict by examining other protection classes. In contrast to the RTV, the Frp would also be willing to make changes to the logo.
Even a Café Is Not Immune to Legal Letters from Apple
On top of that, there’s another case very close to the apple route. The Bonn Café Apfelkind got into trouble with Apple because of its use of a logo with an apple and a child’s head, similar to the RVT and Frp. The operator, Christin Römer, uses the “apple kid” on dishes and furniture. Her design is so successful that she wants to expand the business into a franchise, and she is also toying with the idea of developing a fashion label. She no longer has to worry whether the legal dispute with Apple will cost more time, nerves and thousands of euros. After two years of back and forth with the company, she has been allowed to keep her logo.
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With over 10 years of professional experience in online marketing at various platforms and online stores, project manager Kathrin Bayer provides valuable tips that go beyond current trends.
When she writes articles for exali, they mostly revolve around SEO or SEA risks, e-commerce and online trade or the media industry. She is on fire for all online marketing areas, combining experience with curiosity.