IS APPLE A TRADEMARK BULLY? THE TRADEMARK TROLL IS UNCERTAIN. GASP!!
Trademarks are funny things. Protecting them can be challenging. Anyone who reads this blog knows that I have been sharply critical of many of America's most famous brand owners. In recent years those who should know better have pushed and pulled trademark law, copyright law and even the First Amendment in an effort to build a fortress around their brands. And this includes Apple. Their ongoing fight over the term App is yet another example of corporate hubris tarnishing a carefully constructed public image.
So I was prepared to cringe when I heard that Apple filed a challenge with Chinese authorities over the logo above on the left. Sichuan Fanffuo Food Co. Ltd has filed to register this logo. This company has been in the food business for many years.
To my eyes the logos are quite different. Apple has asked that the company remove the leaf from the their design. The company has refused, saying that without the leaf their apple looks like a bomb. Point well made.
But here's where things get interesting. The food company filed to register it's logo for "notebook computers" and "electronic game software" in addition to it's food products. The owner of the logo claims that he is seeking to register his logo in these categories on the off chance that someone might someday wish to use his logo for such goods.
Yeah right. Especially outside the United States, scammers have been registering trademarks and attempting to blackmail brand owners FOREVER. And, in earlier times, such scammers were often quite successful in China. Get the registration, then sell it back to the legitimate brand owner for a princely sum.
Apple has also asked the food company to remove these two non-food categories from its application.
So is Apple a trademark bully? One compromise is to let them keep the leaf on their logo but delete the non food categories.
But I'm still left to puzzle over the fact that the two logos are so different. If this were a battle over words I'm guessing that it would not matter what the Chinese company was trying to do. Or what were its motives. Legally different is legally different. Yet we seem to employ a different subjective yardstick when graphic symbols are at issue. With that in mind take a look at the logo of LG a prominent electronics manufacturer.