Apple Accuses German Café Of Trademark Infringement Over Logo: Legal Matters

Apple hits out at café over logo

By Michelle Hammond
Friday, 28 October 2011

Tech giant Apple has accused a German café of trademark infringement after the business commissioned a logo of a red apple, providing start-ups with a warning over their logo choice


When Christin Romer opened her café in the German city of Bonn last May, she named it Apfelkind, which means “apple baby”.


Romer then commissioned a logo of a red apple with a cut-out silhouette of a child wearing a hat, which she reprinted on cushions, chairs, cups and even a delivery bike.


It’s been reported Apple sent Romer a letter saying its own logo would be damaged by any trademark rights Romer might win for her logo.


Apple is believed to be most concerned about the colour of the apple, the leaf on the apple stem and the shape of the apple, claiming these features could confuse consumers.


However, Romer has refused to withdraw her trademark application.


James Omond, of commercial law firm Omond & Co., says if the crux of your idea is a name for the business, you can register it as a trademark. The same applies for a logo.


“If the idea involves some form of artistic creation, it may be that the laws of copyright will give you some protection,” Omond says.


“That does not require any form of registration but it does require that the work originates from a human author and that the work has resulted from some intellectual effort from the author.”


“Similarly, if your idea is some form of design, it can be protected by registration under the Designs Act.”


StartupSmart identifies other standout cases regarding logos and business names.


Apple vs. Sichuan Fangguo Food Co.


This isn’t the first time Apple has made such claims. Earlier this year, it accused China-based company Sichuan Fangguo Food Co. of trademark infringement over its apple-shaped logo.


“When I started Fangguo, I had never even heard of Apple,” Fangguo CEO Zhao Yi said.


“There’s a leaf [on our logo] so you can tell it’s an apple, but it also contains two Chinese characters… The orientation is also different and ours is a totally different shape.”



McDonald’s vs. “Mc” or “Mac” businesses


Over the years, fast food giant McDonald’s has threatened many food businesses with legal action unless it drops the “Mc” or “Mac” from trading names.


In one noteworthy case, McDonald’s sued a Scottish café owner called McDonald, even though the business in question dated back over a century.


In 1994, McDonald’s successfully forced Elizabeth McCaughey to change the trading name of her California-based coffee shop McCoffee, which had operated under that name for 17 years.


In 2009, McDonald’s sued Cebu-based fast food restaurant MacJoy for using a similar trade name. The owners of the business were forced to change their trademark to MyJoy.


McDonald’s also went into battle with McChina Wok Away and McMunchies, both based in the United Kingdom, and Denmark hotdog business McAllan.


Collette Dinnigan vs. Colette Accessories


On a local front, it was revealed in April that high-end fashion designer Collette Dinnigan would face off in Federal Court against budget accessories chain Colette Accessories over its name.


“The word ‘Collette’ or the words ‘Collette Dinnigan’… have at all material times been understood by consumers in Australia as exclusively and distinctively indicating and being associated with Ms Dinnigan,” the company claimed.


“[Dinnigan’s label] will suffer damage to their reputation ... from consumers mistakenly thinking they are purchasing genuine Collette Dinnigan products when they are actually purchasing [Colette Accessories] goods.”

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