Back in 1978, Apple Corps, the company founded by the Beatles, sued the company then known as Apple Computer for infringing on its trademark. It wasn’t until nearly 30 years later that it reached a settlement in which the company known by then as Apple (and often just by its logo of the fruit with a single bite taken out of it), got possession of that name.
Apple has come to protect its brand fiercely – too fiercely, according to some who have been on the other end of hundreds of lawsuits over just the past few years in its efforts to protect its brand. Some intellectual property (IP) experts agree. One law professor called out their “bullying tactics” as “unnecessary to protect the public from confusion.”
Apples and other fruits have been the subject of suits
Some of those lawsuits have been against much smaller defendants who have attempted to use the word “pineapple” and the names and images of other fruits. Apple has filed suits against musicians, small business entrepreneurs, school districts, podcasters and even an urgent care business.
Despite this vigilance, there have been outright attempts to copy the brand symbol and name in the entertainment and tech industries – especially in China. However, as one singer-songwriter who was sued after she trademarked a stage name of Franki Pineapple, put it, “You’re telling people that they cannot appropriate fruit or anything that has this connection to Apple, which is this juggernaut company.”
Unlike most of those Apple takes on, this woman fought back and won the right to keep her stage name. Most don’t have the resources or assume they can’t win, so they back down.
Apple says the law requires these actions
A spokesman for Apple insists that the law “requires” it to protect its trademarks to prevent dilution and customer confusion. He says that taking legal action is “always our last resort,” and that “our first step is always to reach out and try to resolve these quickly and amicably.” However, even that can be daunting to an entertainer, creator or small business owner.
If you find yourself in a potential IP battle, it’s crucial to understand your options. By seeking experienced legal guidance, you can protect your rights and seek a fair resolution.