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Apple sued over iCloud trademark

Posted by admin on: June 14th, 2011

Just last week I wrote that Apple’s choice of the iCloud brand name “could present problems (or at least costs) for Apple to control and/or enforce.”  Well…. last Thursday, iCloud Communications, LLC sued Apple for allegedly infringing its trademark. The problem for Apple is on several fronts. One is a legal challenge. Clearly the other company used the name first; the core legal issue is how strong its rights are (without a registration) and how similar Apple’s iCloud services are to those of iCloud Communications.  But a more practical challenge is that Apple is already invested in and committed to the name. They have already launched it and spent great deal of time and money promoting it (in just week!) with great media coverage. In other words, Apple cannot realistically change the name without a great deal of difficulty.  Another challenge for Apple is public relations: although I don’t expect this to make much of a dent on Apple’s wonderful reputation, it could be perceived that Apple just picks a brand name regardless of the law or the damage it could do to another company using the name and that Apple just presumes that it can pay off  any problems or run them over. Apple should be careful if it does not want to be perceived as a trademark bully.

Note that iCloud Communications does not appear to have a US trademark application or registration. Perhaps if they did, this matter would have played out differently? I imagine it would have. They would have more leverage – and more value in a potential sale, license or other arrangement – with Apple.

Interesting paragraph from the complaint:

26.    Although Apple aggressively protects its trademark rights, Apple has a longand well known history of knowingly and willfully treading on the trademark rights of others—a history which began as early as the 1970s when Apple was first sued for trademark infringement by the Beatles record label, Apple Corp. Although the case wassettled on the condition that Apple not enter into the music business, Apple entered intothe music business in the 1990s and was sued again.
Is iCloud Computing alleging that Apple is a trademark bully? Or just careless? Or that they know exactly what they are doing and use the law, and their deep pockets, to get their way in several past trademark disputes?
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One Response
  1. Reid Morris says:

    I thought that the USPTO settled this whole “trademark bully” issue with their report when they declared that there was nothing that could be done for small businesses when “corporations” try to push them around. iCloud Communications apparently didn’t get that memo.