How can Apple identify Apple as a trademark

Apple of contention: How Apple takes action against trademark infringement
Apple takes action against trademark infringements

Internet giant vs. bike path
Internet giant vs. bike path
Contribution by Kathrin Bayer Contribution by Kathrin BayerKathrin Bayer
Contribution by Kathrin Bayer Contribution by Kathrin BayerKathrin Bayer

When it comes to trademark law, Apple doesn't take jokes. Regardless of whether it is 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 mail from top-class lawyers. The technology giant often takes action against small entrepreneurs. But what does all of this have to do with a cycle path near Bonn?

Update 08/11/2020: Apple compares apples with oranges

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 have to change their logo slightly and flatten the leaf on the stem of the pear. Since the adjustment is minimal, the start-up doesn't even have to register a new trademark. Here you can read again what the problem was in the dispute between Apple and the app operators:

The operating company of the cooking app Prepear has five employees, which wants to support its users with shopping and cooking together. The company has chosen a stylized pear as its logo, a play on words with the English-language app name (prepare = English to prepare; pear = English pear). And it is precisely this pear that Apple does not like. Although Prepear and Apple have completely different business purposes, Apple now wants to take action against the logo with an injunction. The pear logo is clearly copied from Apple's apple logo, there is a risk of confusion. According to its own information, the dispute has already cost Prepear several thousand dollars, and even a team member had to leave because of it. Nevertheless, the small company does not want to give up so easily and has launched a petition. The goal: Apple should withdraw the trademark complaint. The petition already has 72,000 supporters (as of August 14, 2020). It remains to be seen whether Apple will be softened. The other logo disputes, which you can read about here, show that Apple is no joke with its logo:

Unplanned attention for the Rhine Cycle Route

"Always cycle after 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 issues. That is why the association opened the themed cycle path “The Rhenish Apple Route” on May 19, 2019, which aims to draw attention to the region’s agriculture and is supported by the European Regional Development Fund.

Like one apple to another ...

In the meantime, the route has definitely received media attention, even if it is only marginally related to the actual cycle path. Rather, it is about the word / figurative mark chosen by the association, which shows the white silhouette of an apple with green leaves on a red background. Because hardly was the logo at the German Patent and Trademark Office (DPMA) in Munich
registered, the association received mail from the legal representatives of the technology giant Apple. These asked the RTV to limit the trademark registration to a few protection classes and also to change the green leaflet. For example, protection class 6 is possible if the signs are made of metal, and class 41, which deals with sporting and cultural activities.

David versus Goliath

The RTV then turned to a trademark lawyer who announced that the association is ready to restrict the trademark rights if Apple withdraws its objection. However, the club will not do without the logo with the green leaf mentioned. Apple got involved in the deal. The RTV can still prepare for legal fees in the low four-digit range, which it has to pay out of pocket.

Déjà-vu? Stay away from the apple!

If this story sounds familiar to you, it is hardly surprising. The international computer company keeps making headlines because of trademark disputes. It was not until the beginning of March that 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 emblem 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 party is 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 Apple mail

On top of that, there is another case very close to the apple route. The Bonn Café Apfelkind got into trouble with Apple because of the logo with apple and child's head that it had chosen, as did RVT and Frp. The operator, Christin Römer, uses the “apple child” on dishes and furniture. Her concept is so successful that she would like to expand the business into a franchise, and she is also toying with the idea of ​​developing a suitable fashion label. She no longer has to worry if the legal dispute with Apple also cost a lot of time, nerves and thousands of euros. After two years of back and forth, she is allowed to keep her logo.

A real claim

We at had another case in which Apple Inc. took action against a trademark infringement on our own desk. A web developer specialized in developing browser software that was compatible with Apple's hardware. He wanted to make this clear in his product name and therefore decided on a term in which a protected Apple trademark was integrated. He made sure to adhere to the terms of use. These describe, among other things, that components of the brand may be used for advertising purposes if compatible software is developed. In the opinion of Apple, the IT service provider has interpreted these rules too generously. The result: A solicitor's letter with a declaration of cease and desist and € 4,000 warning costs.

But: The professional liability insurance could prevent worse

Half a year before the incident, the web developer had taken out professional liability insurance through and was therefore not alone in the matter. The insurer had an elaborate appraisal drawn up, the claims checked and hired a lawyer. The aim was to determine how the terms of use should be interpreted. The trademark law specialists involved actually found a trademark violation on the part of our customer and advised him not to continue using the trademarks and domains. With the time gained, the web developer was able to rename his company and switch to new domains. And that before the product was launched on the market.

It is not only when dealing with international giants that it becomes clear once again how important so-called passive legal protection is as part of professional liability insurance. In the event of a claim, the insurer not only pays compensation, but also all attorney, expert and court costs associated with the matter and is on hand to provide advice and assistance.

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