Trademark Woes for Apple

Submitted by patentadmin on Fri, 09/28/2012 - 13:35

We hate to seem repetitious, but we hereby present yet another blog post about Apple. What other company provides such a wealth of blog topics from its lawsuits in all areas of intellectual property?

While Apple celebrates its success in its lawsuit against Samsung and attempts to secure a permanent injunction on as many of its competitors' products as possible, the steady stream of lawsuits filed against Apple continues unabated. And in an ironic twist for the computer company known for its iconic designs, some of Apple's legal woes have to do with design patents and trademarks.

Recently we wrote about how Apple's engineers were inspired by German electronics from the "Mad Men" era (see The Sincerest Form of Flattery). In deciding on a new look for the clock app on the iPad, they also drew inspiration from a classic design: a Swiss clock design first used in 1944. The problem is that the clock design is still in use, it's trademarked by the Swiss Federal Railway service (SBB), and it's licensed to Swiss watch manufacturer Mondaine. (You can see one of the clocks in an SBB station here.)

Although the SBB is "pleased" that Apple likes the clock's design enough to use it, Apple is nevertheless not licensed to do so. So it appears that the SBB might be serving up a trademark lawsuit to the electronics giant soon.

It may be that a small change will be enough to derail the railway system's lawsuit. (Sorry, couldn't resist.) Three years ago, Apple had a design complaint of its own when it sent a letter of rejection to app developer Tapbots. Apple rejected Tapbots' Convertbot 1.4 app because it used a clock icon that was practically identical to Apple's own clock design used in the History/Recent resource. Since the Apple design in question is a clock showing the time as 3:00, Tapbots simply changed its clock to show the time as 9:00. Apple approved the change and the app issued about a month after Apple initially rejected it.

"Now Apple may own 3 o'clock, but I guess they don't own 9 o'clock," quipped the developer in a blog post.

In other trademark news, Apple lost an appeal in its bid to trademark its iPhone Music icon because it is too confusingly similar to the trademark for iLike, a defunct music download service. Both designs feature two connected eighth notes on a square orange background. The difference is that Apple's music notes are dark orange and slant up to the right while iLike's music notes are white and slant down to the right. You can compare and contrast both marks here.

Apple has the right to appeal the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board's decision again, but we wonder if they might offer to buy the trademark from MySpace, which acquired iLike in 2009 and shut it down earlier this year.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 02/14/2013 - 15:45


Didn't Apple have a problem with "iPhone" when they introduced? Hadn't some other company already trademarked it?

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