• Oz Court: Apple Can't Control the Letter 'i'

    An Australian trade court has ruled that a company may go ahead with its application for a trademark with the letter "i" in it, overruling Apple's objections that it would confuse buyers. The court decided, however, that “a person of ordinary intelligence and memory” would be able to avoid jumping to the conclusion that the company's iPhone/iPod cases and laptop bags came from Apple.

    Way back in September of 2007, Apple filed a Notice of Objection with the Australian Trade Marks Court to prevent Sydney-based Wholesale Central Pty., from attempting to trademark the brand DOPi, (which supposedly stands for Digital Options and Personalized Items). Apple complained to the government intellectual property agency IP Australia that the proposed trademark was "deceptively similar" to several Australian trademarks Apple holds (such as 'iPod,' 'iPodcast,' and 'Made for iPod').

    Apple's lawyer had a very amusing and convoluted argument:
    The emphasis given to the letter "i" results in the consumer's attention on seeing the mark being immediately deflected to that particular part of the mark. The eye thus having been drawn to that particular part of the mark will perceive the very different treatment given to the letter "i" and also its close association with the three waves device. The aforesaid depiction creates a perception of that combination being the dominant and distinctive feature of the mark.
    However, registrar Michael Kirov, the IP Australia "delegate" assigned to the case, said Apple didn't prove that "that the person of ordinary intelligence and memory would be caused to wonder, or be left in doubt, about whether the Goods come from the Opponent merely because the Trade Mark terminates in the letter 'i,' however that letter may be presented." He also made the point that there were a lot of products on the market that had a lowercase letter 'i' as a part of their product name, and people didn't seem to have any trouble figuring out that they weren't Apple products.

    The pushback comes amid a lot of aggressive moves by Apple to punish companies in Australia who use similar-sounding names or lookalike logos. Last year, Macpro Computers said Apple was attempting to "burn it out with legal fees" over the company name, which the owner said he had for 26 years before the Apple Mac Pro line came out. Apple also challenged a trademark application from the Woolworths supermarket chain in Australia, claiming its logo was too similar to the Apple logo.
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