Copyright Fight Brewing Over Who 'Owns' Steve Jobs Silhouette Inside The Apple Logo

from the let-it-go,-guys dept

After Steve Jobs passed away last week, an image quickly went viral showing his silhouette inside the Apple logo, where the traditional "bite" mark once was:
But, of course, knowing the times we live in, is it any wonder that there may be a copyright and trademark fight brewing over this tribute image? As the image went viral, many were crediting a Hong Kong design student by the name of Jonathan Mak -- who noted that because of the image he was getting questions about "buying the copyright" on the logo, as well as some job offers. Mak claimed he came up with the image in August, when Jobs retired, but it didn't get much attention at the time. Only after Jobs passed away was when the image suddenly went viral.

But, then, over the weekend, others started pointing out that a UK-based designer, who goes by the name Raid71, had apparently come up with a nearly identical image back in May. Mak claimed independent invention, insisting that he "didn't rip off" Raid71 and that he just came up with the same idea himself:
"I still arrived at the solution on my own, and my conscience is still clear, but I'm more than happy to acknowledge the fact that somebody did it before me."
So that's two people. Well, now we have a third. It seems that Farzin Adeli, based in California, isn't just claiming that he came up with the idea, but is trying to copyright and trademark the image. He says he came up with the image right after Jobs' death, and insists that the image that went viral -- while a negative version of the one he made, is "virtually identical" to the image he created. He registered for the copyright on Thursday and is "working with lawyers" on the trademark.

Of course, it's entirely possible that all three of these folks came up with the idea separately. And while it's rare, copyright law does actually allow an independent creation defense. But somehow I doubt that would prevent a potential legal battle.

Still, all three of these might not have any legitimate legal claim to the tribute logo either: I would imagine that Apple could quash any attempts to register the intellectual property claims of these guys. I can't see how any trademark claim gets anywhere, as Apple could obviously claim that it infringes on Apple's existing trademarks and there would be a serious likelihood of confusion. Separately, while I think publicity rights are pretty silly, you have to imagine Steve Jobs' estate could make a publicity rights claim under California law over the use of his likeness. I hope they don't go down that path -- as it is a nice tribute. But, if the others start fighting over who owns what, at the very least, it might be good to remind all of them that probably none of them really should have any IP over the image.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    John Doe, Oct 13th, 2011 @ 10:54am

    They are all out of luck

    Apple has gone after a grocery store and someone in China for logos that only have a very slight resemblance to the Apple logo, so there is no way they let this one get trademarked.

    But what about copyright? Can one of the creators prevent Apple from using it as a trademark since they can claim copyright to the design?

     

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  2.  
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    ChrisB (profile), Oct 13th, 2011 @ 11:10am

    Testing uniqueness

    There should be absolutely no problem judging which ones are copies and which ones are unique. It would be impossible for the shape and placement of the silhouette to be the same if they were created independently.

     

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  3.  
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    Jay (profile), Oct 13th, 2011 @ 11:10am

    Everyone loses...

    Patent law... Patent law never changes.

    Since the dawn of the 18th century, when our ancestors first discovered the censoring path with cunning and wit, money has been spilled in the name of copyright, from God to justice, to simple internet stupidity.

    In the year 2011, after centuries of armed lawsuits, the destructive nature of censorship, could substain itself, no longer. The world was plunged into an abyss of dark nights, and silence.

    But it was not, as some had predicted, the end of the world. Instead, the apocalypse was just the prologue to another bloody chapter of human history. For man, had succeded destroying the innovative world..

     

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  4.  
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    hothmonster, Oct 13th, 2011 @ 11:13am

    Re: Everyone loses...

    thank you Ron Pearlman

     

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  5.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 13th, 2011 @ 11:18am

    Re: Everyone loses...

    This comment is overly dramatic and you need the word "innovative" in there more B-.

     

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  6.  
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    Ninja (profile), Oct 13th, 2011 @ 11:22am

    It's somewhat ironic for me considering how Apple is aggressive on trademark, copyrights and patents.

    The California guy is clearly an opportunist. And considering what we know from the US copywrong and legal system he's probably succeeding (unless Apple gets in the mess).

    That said, I do believe that quite a few individuals had the same idea. I mean come on, it's simple and it's obvious, specially after Jobs died. It'll be interesting to follow this case. In the end the picture should just be considered public domain and we should just flattr the Hong Kong guy and the other one (not California idiot) and carry on with our lives.

     

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  7.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 13th, 2011 @ 11:25am

    Just release it into the Public Domain

    And add all three as the artists. It will solve all the problems of these crappy fights over it (all three can claim how genius they are and get commissioned), and Apple can still use it anyway.

    Simple.

     

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  8.  
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    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Oct 13th, 2011 @ 11:26am

    Re: Testing uniqueness

    It would be impossible for the shape and placement of the silhouette to be the same if they were created independently.

    Not impossible. For example, they may have all used the same photo of Jobs as a reference.

    Which, incidentally, would open up a whole other avenue for copyright claims.

     

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  9.  
    identicon
    Steve, Oct 13th, 2011 @ 11:28am

    But wait, there's more...

    The German youth magazine "Bravo" created a similar image on their own and included it as a poster in the current issue:
    http://www.bravo.de/family/Die-aktuelle-BRAVO/ex/page/1

     

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  10.  
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    Overcast (profile), Oct 13th, 2011 @ 11:37am

    And the vultures descend...

    To pick at the corpse.

     

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  11.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 13th, 2011 @ 11:37am

    Quick someone do this for Woz while everyone is looking the other way.

     

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  12.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 13th, 2011 @ 11:57am

    I hope this gets copyrighted, trademarked, and nailed down in every way possible, and then a judge brushes it all aside arbitrarily with a sweep of his hand and a single paragraph and creates a new precedent: if you children can't get along, nobody gets the toy. And maybe even send them to time-out. Then maybe folks will get the fear put into them of acting like brats.

     

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  13.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 13th, 2011 @ 12:07pm

    Re: Re: Everyone loses...

    hes doing a homage, and you dont get anymore clues than the one above

     

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  14.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 13th, 2011 @ 12:09pm

    Re:

    Much of the apple would be obliterated...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 13th, 2011 @ 12:32pm

    " it might be good to remind all of them that probably none of them really should have any IP over the image."

    This sort of follows your warped views on the subject. What you are suggesting is that, if someone else comes up with something at any time in the future without having seen the original, that the original should lose any and all protections?

    How truly odd.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
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    Greevar (profile), Oct 13th, 2011 @ 12:33pm

    Re: Everyone loses...

    War. War never changes.

     

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  17.  
    identicon
    hothmonster, Oct 13th, 2011 @ 12:36pm

    Re:

    How do you get that from that sentence? He is saying these 3 people don't have any IP over the image because the apple is already owned by Apple and image of Jobs, is an image of a person who exists(existed). He is not saying the original should lose protections, he is saying Apple trumps all of them. imo

     

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  18.  
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    Greevar (profile), Oct 13th, 2011 @ 12:40pm

    This is petty and stupid.

    This should, I repeat should, serve as evidence that nobody should have any copyrights on this. If three people can come to the same expression based on the same idea, then it outlines how stupid it is to apply exclusive monopolies on ideas. And don't try to deny it, copyright has done nothing but try to apply monopolies to ideas. Just look at the mass of copyright suits out there for evidence (Rhiana's music video with the SBDM scenes, for example).

    "All art is derivative. There is no form of art that is totally original... 'originality' is a modern art construct... a silly concession to marketing concerns." - Paul deMarrais

     

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  19.  
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    The eejit (profile), Oct 13th, 2011 @ 1:16pm

    Re:

    Two words: "Independent invention".

     

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  20.  
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    PaulT (profile), Oct 13th, 2011 @ 1:16pm

    Re:

    "How truly odd."

    Your comment, which misrepresents everything Mike clearly meant by the quoted sentence and those around it?

    Yes, you are very odd.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 13th, 2011 @ 2:07pm

    Re: Just release it into the Public Domain

    Too simple. That must mean there is a trick. We should plan for the worst case scenario. Give a patent and extended copyright to Apple so we don't kill any green shoots or fruits.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
    identicon
    hobo, Oct 13th, 2011 @ 2:10pm

    Re: They are all out of luck

    Which is ridiculous on its face as Apple only has its name and logo because Apple Corps (Beatles) agreed. So if Apple Corps is not stirring over an issue, Apple Computers should have no leg to stand on.

     

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  23.  
    identicon
    hobo, Oct 13th, 2011 @ 2:14pm

    Re: This is petty and stupid.

    These are not ideas, these are expressions. I'm not saying that I disagree with your point, just delineating.

     

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  24.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 13th, 2011 @ 2:41pm

    Re:

    The key is who put the concept into "fixed form" first.

    Whoever posted first (either via e-mail or on a webpage/blog) with a verifiable time/date stamp has the best claim.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 13th, 2011 @ 2:52pm

    Re: They are all out of luck

    If Apple can find the copyright transfer of the logo to them, they could possibly claim derivative work infringement.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 13th, 2011 @ 2:54pm

    Re: Testing uniqueness

    Not really, the exact location and scale of the profile may differ a bit but the photo used to create the profile probably was ggogled and there is a strong possibility that it is the same image for all of them.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
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    Greevar (profile), Oct 13th, 2011 @ 4:18pm

    Re: Re: This is petty and stupid.

    I don't deny that, but they're fighting over who owns the idea, honestly. Copyright does protect monopolies on expression, but too many use it to monopolize on ideas and get away with it. Therefore, it's primary use is to own and control ideas.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28.  
    identicon
    Nike, Oct 13th, 2011 @ 4:37pm

    Its not always about money

    If everyone did some research before posting a comment, they would see that the California guy has no intention of making profit off this. He has actually created a donation page on ebay to raise funds for pancreatic cancer research and any and all money coming out of this whole fight is being donated for the cause. The Hong Kong guy admits that he wasn't the first to come up with the concept and the UK based artist apparently has a different version of the picture. The California guy created the picture in the evening of Job's death whereas the Hong Kong kid says he made it on that Friday which is contrary to what this article claims about it being created in August.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 13th, 2011 @ 5:33pm

    Re: Re: This is petty and stupid.

    That line of idea/expression dichotomy was destroyed when judges ruled that non-literal copies could occur.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Substantial_similarity

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 13th, 2011 @ 5:35pm

    Re: Its not always about money

    Does it matter all of them can be sued by Apple for creating derivative works.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 13th, 2011 @ 6:03pm

    Tony Auth Washington Post Cartoonist 10/7/11

    Tony Auth, editorial cartoonist at the Washington Post, used this figure in is cartoon of October 7, 2011. It was signed by him and gave the years of birth and death of Steve Jobs. Look it up at:
    http://wpcomics.washingtonpost.com/client/wpc/ta/2011/10/07/

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 13th, 2011 @ 7:28pm

    Re: Tony Auth Washington Post Cartoonist 10/7/11

    Auth is the Philadelphia Inquirer's editorial cartoonist. Tom Toles is the Washington Post's editorial cartoonist.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  33.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 13th, 2011 @ 7:41pm

    Has anyone drawn an apple with a halo over it?

     

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  34.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 13th, 2011 @ 8:40pm

    Re: Re: Tony Auth Washington Post Cartoonist 10/7/11

    Oooops! But it was (also?) published by the Washington Post.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  35.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 14th, 2011 @ 6:41am

    Re: Re:

    I have to disagree here.

    If you allow for "Independent invention" as a defence, you start to get into a question of mind space: Did the second inventor ever see the work of the first? Ever heard of it? Remember, with the internet generation, information travels the globe in seconds. Independent invention might have been a semi-valid concept when the news was delivered by horseback and sailing ship and took years to go around the world, but today we have no excuses.


    Does the second inventor ALSO get the rights, or do they both lose them? If you wanted to license, would you have to license from both, or could you just create your own and claim "Independent invention" of your own?

    Can you see why this is both a legal and logical dead end?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  36.  
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    Jay (profile), Oct 14th, 2011 @ 8:07am

    Re: Re:

    Yes, but the entire point of this begs the question:

    Does it even matter?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  37.  
    identicon
    Albert, Oct 15th, 2011 @ 1:10pm

    Steve

    Steve Jobs will be alive forever alive in our hearts and hands :-)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  38.  
    identicon
    Steve Ansell, Apr 12th, 2012 @ 7:09pm

    Silhouetted image

    It may have been stated previously - I didn't read all posts - but in the film FLASH OF GENIUS there is a brilliant example of taking "what is" and making something "entirely new and unique" - it refers to the opening line of Dickens' Great Expectations, where the witness (arguing that because the invention in dispute was made up of existing bits, the litigant had no claim against his firm) acknowledges "every American school child would recognize the line - It was the best of times, it was the worst of times - as uniquely Dickens' work" The prosecution then asked him if each word in the sentence was created by Dickens, which he of course said "no" and his argument crumbled.... whoever created the Jobs-Apple silhouette, created a new thing from existing things .... just like we all do.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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