A new report says that Apple has filed 215 trademark oppositions to logos it thinks are similar to its own. The scale of the tech giant’s campaign amounts to “bullying tactics, and they are unnecessary for Apple to protect the public from confusion,” according to an expert.
New report claims Apple uses ‘bullying tactics’ to defend its trademark
As reported by the New York Times:
Ms. St. John is one of dozens of entrepreneurs, small businesses and corporations that Apple has gone after in recent years for applying to trademark names with the word “apple” or logos of stemmed fruit. Between 2019 and last year, Apple, the world’s most valuable public company, worth $2.6 trillion, filed 215 trademark oppositions to defend its logo, name or product titles, according to the Tech Transparency Project, a nonprofit watchdog. That’s more than the estimated 136 trademark oppositions that Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook and Google collectively filed in the same period, the group said.
Ms. St. John is the central figure of the piece. When she started a sex-and-life coaching blog in 2019, the Cupertino tech giant filed a trademark opposition with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, over her a neon green and pink apple logo, which was cut open to resemble female genitalia.
The report says St. John was “crestfallen” as she did not have the money to hire a lawyer and challenge Apple legally which led to a default judgment in favor of the tech giant. Apple claimed her logo was “likely to tarnish Apple’s reputation, which Apple has cultivated in part by endeavoring not to associate itself with overtly sexual or pornographic material.”
The report goes on to highlight that Apple has “frequently targeted entities that have nothing to do with tech or that are infinitesimal in size,” with going after trademarks that involve other fruits, like oranges and pears.
An Apple spokesperson said that the law “requires” that the company protect its trademarks by filing oppositions with the Patent and Trademark Office. “When we see applications that are overly broad or could be confusing to our customers, our first step is always to reach out and try to resolve these quickly and amicably,” he said. “Legal action is always our last resort.”
The report says some of those targeted could not fight the challenges because they did not have to resources to fight the company. A law professor equates Apple’s challenges to bullying:
The scale of the company’s campaign amounts to “bullying tactics, and they are unnecessary for Apple to protect the public from confusion,” said Christine Farley, a professor at American University’s Washington College of Law.
The report cites data from the Tech Transparency Project which reveals that between 2019 and 2021, 17 percent of those that Apple or its subsidiary Beats Electronics opposed, withdrew their trademark applications. Another 59 did not reply to challenges and defaulted
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