For years, the letter ‘i’ has been a goldmine for Apple; apply the letter to an ordinary object and you have lines outside your door waiting to buy the gadget. Apple may have to find another letter now that an Australian trade court sided with a handbag maker.
IP Australia, the government board that watches over trademarks, rejected Apple’s claim on the letter, noting the Cupertino, Calif. company didn’t prove “a person of ordinary intelligence and memory” would assume that just because a product carries the letter “i”, it was the brainchild of Steve Jobs. Although the case revolved around a laptop bag named DOPi — iPod backwards — the IP Australia judge, or registrar Michael Kirov (a self-proclaimed Apple fan) said that wasn’t enough to block sales.
Apple can keep its various current i-related trademarks, the court ruled.
Local reports characterized the trademark dispute as a battle of David and Goliath proportions. Apple, with $200 billion in the bank, was suing the DOPi’s maker, a Sydney-based company which made $71,000 in 2007.
This isn’t the first time Apple has gone to court to protect its image. In late 2009, Apple sued Macpro Computers, an Australian computer and tech support business that had operated under the name for 26 years, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.
Woolworth’s in that country was also threatened after Apple said the chain store’s new “W” logo bore a resemblance to an apple. In 2007, Apple sued networking giant Cisco over the term “iPhone,” a disagreement that resulted in an agreement permitting the two companies to both use the name.
Probably one of the longest-running trademark cases involving Apple was the battle with recording label Apple Corp., which began in 1978 and finally concluded in 2007. The two companies agreed Apple would own the Apple trademark, but would allow Apple Corps to use the name for some purposes.