When it comes to trademark bullies, Apple is one of the more prolific muscle-flexers in the arena. For some time now, they've been known to be extremely aggressive over their trademarks. From the idea of having an apple
in a company's logo, to the name of one's store
for mobile applications, all the way to how you offer their products in your own company's contests
, Apple defends their marks the way a jealous puppy defends a rawhide.
That's why, while we may agree that aggressive trademark enforcement is at times overblown and unnecessary, it's really rather fun to watch Apple have the trademark stick wrestled from their grips and get beaten over the head with it, such as when Mexico invalidates their use of the "iPhone" mark in commerce
within their country. And just in time for Christmas, too! The following is a wonderful story about how a Mexican telecom company already had a mark for iFone, but even more interesting is the long history Apple has of arrogantly bullying everyone else over their attempt to validate the iPhone mark.
The Mexican company registered the trademark iFone way back in 2003, full four years before Apple filed to trademark the name iPhone (which was already owned by Linksys in US, more about that later). Apple, despite fully aware of the fact that the Mexican company owned the trademark since 2004, sued them in 2009 to invalidate the iFone trademark. So Apple wanted iFone brand to be invalidated, which was filed in 2004, because it was similar to iPhone name which was filed in 2007.
Apparently, Apple's argument for invalidating the pre-existing iFone mark in Mexico went something along the lines of, "Hey, we're Apple." This, as the article goes on to note, is something Apple did that adds to their longstanding history of not giving a damn about anyone else's trademarks. You may recall that the iPhone mark was originally owned in the US by Cisco
, who settled with Apple on use of the mark. But back to iFone.
It turns out that the Mexican courts were understandably unimpressed with Apple's possibly trademarked "Hey, we're Apple" legal argument. They upheld the iFone mark and now Apple can't use the iPhone term inside of Mexico.
It means a lot of trouble for "sue first talk later" Apple which is engaged in dozens of lawsuits around the world. This decision will have a huge impact on Apple's market in Mexico and they now won't be able to use the name iPhone in the country - this decision coming before the holiday season is nothing short of A Nightmare At The Mexico City for Apple.
Apple needs to hold its horses back. It needs to stop its "sue everyone else" drive as it has started to come back and bite them.
Which is the problem with lawsuit-happy companies like Apple. They escalate the war to the point where their own extremism is met with opposite extremism to combat it. Is this whole trademark nonsense necessary? Probably not. I can't claim to be an expert on how the average Mexican citizen associates something that says iFone with Apple, but I'm guessing they're smart and in-tune with technology enough that they know the two aren't related. I could be wrong about that, but there's one thing I'm not wrong about.
It's immensely entertaining to see aggressive IP folks get bit in the ass by their own tactics.