Apple wants to own the rights to images of real apples around the world

Apple wants to own the rights to images of real apples around the world
According to Wired UK, Apple has a 111-year-old Swiss fruit company called Fruit Union Suisse, the largest and oldest fruit farmer's organization in Switzerland, worried. As soon as we tell you what the company uses for its logo, you'll know exactly where this story is heading. For most of its existence, the company has promoted its brand with a logo consisting of a red Apple with the Swiss flag layered on top of it. But that logo might have to be changed thanks to Apple.  

Apple is suing a fruit company in Switzerland for the IP rights of an ordinary apple

The tech giant is seeking the Intellectual Property (IP) rights of a real apple in Switzerland. The records of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) indicate that Apple has tried this tactic around the world. In countries such as Japan, Turkey, Israel, and Armenia Apple was awarded the IP rights to a piece of fruit.

Fruit Union Suisse director Jimmy Mariéthoz said, "We have a hard time understanding this, because it’s not like they're [Apple] trying to protect their bitten apple. Their objective here is really to own the rights to an actual apple, which, for us, is something that is really almost universal … that should be free for everyone to use."

Apple's pursuit of the IP rights to an apple in Switzerland started in 2017 when it filed with the Swiss Institute of Intellectual Property (IPI) requesting the IP rights for a realistic, black-and-white image of a Granny Smith apple. The company wanted the rights to use this image on consumer electronics and was awarded these rights for some of the goods it sought protection for. The IPI noted that generic images of apples are considered to be in the public domain.

This past April, Apple appealed the decision and the case in Swiss courts deals only with the products that Apple was unable to get the trademark of an apple for. Fruit Union's Mariéthoz is worried because he says that Apple has been aggressive when it comes to defending its IP and has gone after possible infringements of its real apple IP.

The Fruit Union Suisse director said, "We’re concerned that any visual representation of an apple—so anything that’s audiovisual or linked to new technologies or to media—could be potentially impacted. That would be a very, very big restriction for us. Theoretically, we could be entering slippery territory everytime we advertise with an apple."

Big, valuable companies like Apple can scare smaller firms acting legally into complying with their demands

Apple has flexed its legal muscles against an app used to prep meals and make grocery lists that used a logo of a pear and even went after an entertainer named Frankie Pineapple. And even though the late Steve Jobs was a huge Beatles fan, Apple went after the Fab Four's own Apple Corps music label. The latter case was settled in 2007 with the agreement that Jobs would own the trademark and name and license it to the Beatles' company.

While Apple is seeking the rights to an image of a black and white apple, that actually is a shrewd move on the company's part since it could allow the company to claim infringement by apple logos of any color. Texas A&M University School of Law professor Irene Calboli, who is also a fellow at the University of Geneva, points out that in Switzerland companies like Fruit Union Suisse, with a long history of using a logo, usually are protected from lawsuits from firms like Apple.

But on the other hand, she says that huge and highly valued companies like Apple can often scare smaller and less valuable firms into complying with their demands. "The system is very much skewed toward those who have more money. Getting frightened about a possible legal battle could stop a small company from doing "something that might be perfectly lawful."

Recommended Stories
Apple isn't the only tech firm that has trademarked the names of common items. Microsoft has done it with Windows and Amazon with Prime. However, a report covering the years 2019-2021 revealed that over that period Apple filed more cases to protect its IP than Microsoft, Google, Facebook, and Amazon combined. Apple has been on the other side and was forced to pay the Swiss Federal Railways $21 million for using its clock design for the iPad in iOS 6.

Recommended Stories

Loading Comments...
FCC OKs Cingular\'s purchase of AT&T Wireless