If It Sounds Like Apple, Does Apple Own It?
All the news that is news about Apple today tells of iPhone 5’s release in San Francisco. However, just as company boss Tim Cook took to the stage to show off the new hand held smartness, so too Apple lawyers busied themselves preparing to sue an online Polish grocery store. You read that correclty, if ever anyone wondered how closely big brands guard their patented logos and such, the following is a cautionary tale.
Polish online grocery outlet A.pl is now involved in litigation with Apple over allegedly copying Apple’s logo and “sound” to win over customers at the technology giant’s expense. Apple, having just won out over Samsung in that high profile infringement case to the tune of $1.05 billion in damages, is showing perhaps excessive vigor in pursuing the Polish grocier. Even the wording of the complaint betrays a company attitude toward protecting their icons that is for some, a bit scary.
Apple claimes that A.pl, by using a name so similar to the “sound” of Apple, is using the technology company’s reputation for their own gain. A.pl CEO Radoslaw Celinski told Reuters: “The accusation is ludicrous”. The Polish company does have a subsidiary site that displays a green apple that is similar to Apple’s legendary fruit icon, but the company’s official name is A PL, which could be construed to “sound” like a mimick of the world’s most valuable business. But is the sound of any apple spoken by rights belonging to the company Steve Jobs built?
For all practical purposes, A.pl is a deli site that advertises delivering produce and other goodies direct to their customers’ doors. Of course .pl is the country domain for Poland, and the “A” needs no explanation, but Apple’s demanding the Polish Patent Office cancel registration of A.pl’s trademark is the matter at hand.
It’s a bit unclear at this point whether or not Apple is seeking to squash the “sound” of A.pl, or to erradicate the use of one of A.pl’s logos (at right). The green fruit that may be in question is actaully the logo of affiliated webstie Fresh24.pl. If you visit that site you will not find any iPads or iPhones either, but instead grocery promotons from sugar to toilet paper and everything in between. Besides, who’s to say that fruit is indeed an apple anyway? Tomatoes and even oranges are green and round, where apple’s are asymetrical and green at a point!
If clickthrough rates are subject to anything like relevance, it seems highly unlikely A.pl is benefiting earning billions from wayward iPhone 5 buyers. Still, the technicalities of copyright law are in place for good reason.