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Ivan's picture

Apple sues another company with an apple logo

apple logos

Apple after suing the The Victoria School of Business and Technology in Canada (logo on the left) for the similarity of their logo to the Apple trademark, now decided they are going after Woolworth and their newly launched identity (logo in the middle). While the logos clearly not similar, other than showing the same fruit, Apple's problem is that Woolworth may in the future sell electronics, which may create confusion for consumers.

You know that I'm a huge Apple fanboy and a big supporter of trademark protection. In this case however if I somebody asked my opinion (which didn't happen) I would certainly dismiss Apple's claim as ridiculous.

If we were to go down this route, literally tens of thousands of companies will have to change their logos featuring apples to make sure they will not confuse consumers in case they happen to release electronics in the future. Such practice would put a ban on the use of an important symbol carrying rich symbolism. Going further, Coca-Cola could ban the use of script type, IBM would ban anything with stripes and McDonald's could wipe the uppercase letter M from public communication altogether.

I'm of course exaggerating. Also, I'm not sure about the legal background of the case. The point I want to make is that the legal boundary of trademark protection should be events up till the present. We should not allow speculations about the future into such claims, because by doing that we will limit creative work.

Commenting on this Blog entry is closed.

3dogmama's picture
1990 pencils

I think Apple has overstepped it with the school logo:

#1 there isn't a bite mark out of the fruit
#2 it's a different shape
#3 there's a marketing graph segmenting the school's graphic
#4 colours are VERY different
#5 it's trademarked????

Woolworth's logo is very cool. The "W" and apple shape just work. Could be sour grapes happening because of the better logo. ;)

Overall, I agree with Ivan. The Apple legals are either bored, on meds, or they've been hitting the desk drawer bottle a little too much to think they own rights to the image of an apple. I guess my agricultural clients that use an apple in their logo best beware...especially the apple growers!

"Art -- the one achievement of Man which has made the long trip up from all fours seem well advised." - James Thurber

gwells's picture
1707 pencils

perhaps apple records should sue them over the use of the apple. i mean, if apple thinks that the name/shape is all or nothing, then they're violating the original trademark of apple records (which probably wasn't the first apple trademark).

Ivan's picture

I think they did sue and then settle. Not sure though.

lucdesaulniers's picture
23 pencils

They came to an arrangement. At the time, the permission was accorded as long as Apple would not get involved in music. As a dare, and because the system OS 7 had a collection of different musical chimes, they created one called Sosumi (So, sue me)!


Leaky Penny's picture
2612 pencils

Wow, well it's seems they have a bit of a history these two, going as far back as the early 80's

Leaky Penny
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ItalianMike's picture
303 pencils

I think that it's disgraceful of them to be suing companies for having Apples in their logo's. Especially considering Apple's own history with the Beatles and their initial dispute.

Ring Tone's picture
1 pencil

I can't believe that Apple is doing this. And to think that I am a huge Apple fan. Like these guys don't have enough money that they really see the need to sue a school. Pathetic.

Kilik's picture
80 pencils

That sucks. Copyright infringement is a hard topic. Colors are even copyrighted. The name escapes me right now but I remember there was this telecommunications company that won a suit because another company used a similar color in their branding or advertising.

Although, on the other hand, your brand can be compromised pretty quickly. Two former brand names that have lost the battle are Escalator and Bandaid. People use these terms everyday but they actually are/were brands.

gwells's picture
1707 pencils

that's exactly why xerox pursued anyone using the word "xerox" as a substitute for "copy" zealously. protecting their brand. it was acceptable to say "xerox copy," but not "i'll xerox that for you."

Ivan's picture

On the AotW blog Tom Parette a branding expert wrote about this:

Kilik's picture
80 pencils

I didn't know "laundromat" and "zipper" were once brand names! Good info.

I think Google is in danger of falling into this category. You hear the term "google it" every day. Personally, I think of the actual search engine Google but I'm sure other people use it more haphazardly.

Mikitjan's picture
16 pencils

Actually they are quite different. Each logo has their own characteristics. I'm agree that this time Apple is going too far...

qwertyale's picture
2047 pencils

The Apple Trademark is not an APPLE!

it's a BIT in the apple...

could Microsoft lawsuit any companies that use a windows on their logos?

I can't believe, It's ridiculous.

that's a rule on logo design:
# Choose if possible a sign that cannot be massificated!

yes I'm brazilian xD

modd's picture
2 pencils

your bolg is not correctly displayed in the opera

steveballmer's picture
653 pencils

You people and your leaders are soooo annal!
I am not Steve Ballmer pretending not to be me!

3dogmama's picture
1990 pencils

You mean anal?

You've had two spelling errors and one punctuation omission.

How's that for anal? Any more and I'd be forced to grab my ankles.

"Art -- the one achievement of Man which has made the long trip up from all fours seem well advised." - James Thurber

Jaz's picture

Woolthworths could claim that it's actually an under-ripe tomato. Case closed. I really feel for the designer who created the new Woolies mark, its a great logo with fresh produce connotations and a W, clever, modern and slick, and now the client is going to be very unhappy with them. Looks nothing like the Apple logo.

spikedrain's picture
5 pencils

Apple does this a lot. I remember when I was looking to trademark something my entertainment attorney told me they tried stopping any company from prefixing their name with a letter "i". Either way, no matter how much I love using Mac for art and music, things like this show me that Apple is just another soulless corporation trying to monopolize things.

A friend of mine in Australia told me recently of the chaos he went through over a lawsuit and a logo. A client asked him to take a logo that one of their ex employees created for them and modify it. That ex employee is now suing them, they both are threatening suit against my friend and he could face a $1,000,000 fine and jail time even though they told him that they owned the rights. At the same time they are telling him he's greta and not to worry, and that they want him to keep working for them. Maybe it's different in AU, but even smaller companies than apple will go to great lengths over their logo.

With monopolies being a new trend, it's not shocking to see things like this happen. Google is heavily lobbying trying to get that orphan works bill passed which could possibly make life hell for all artists to keep their work protected. Definitely worth looking into at the illustrator's partnership if you haven't seen it.

It sucks but the poor man's standard of "make it 20% different" will not stop companies like Apple from trying to take a bite out of your ass if you decide to design something even remotely similar to their branding cash cow. It does show you how important branding and brand loyalties really are though.

ScottCooper's picture
3 pencils

Fruit farmers watch out - you're next!

ScottCooper's picture
3 pencils

A bite out of your ass, huh? I can think of a new logo - rather round, with a bite out of the right hand side....nope...I'll be sued.

lucdesaulniers's picture
23 pencils

Unless you are a major, your chance of suing is so slim you just have to breath hard and see it as a kudo to your work being copied. I frequently see some of mine copied (or "inspired from") by those "99$ We design your logo" web site. I once contacted the company using one of my copied logo to ask "Nice logo, who designed it?" They refer me back to those 99$ scamers. The client as such was not aware of the fact. The only thing I could say is "Be careful about using such design resources."

ScottCooper's picture
3 pencils

Doesn't it feel great to be an inspiration to others!?!

lucdesaulniers's picture
23 pencils

Inspiration yes, bluntly copied, no. Mostly when you make your living out of it.

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