Apple Forgets About the Moron In A Hurry Test, Threatens School With An Apple In Its Logo

from the comparing-apples-and-oranges dept

It was just a few years ago when Apple used the moron in a hurry test to defend itself against a trademark suit, but their own legal department seems to have forgotten about it already. Apple has sent a cease and desist letter to the Victoria School of Business and Technology for the use of a blue and green apple element in their logo. The Canadian school has created a comparison page on their website in an attempt to highlight the differences between the logos, hoping to dissuade Apple from launching a lawsuit by building public support. The page also contains the legal correspondence to date, including a letter in which the school’s president asks if Apple is “suggesting that anyone using any variation of an apple for technology education related use is infringing on Apple’s trademark.”

The legal question is really about consumer confusion, as the Canadian Supreme Court has understood in the past. Trademark law doesn’t grant the holder an exclusive right over every use of a mark, just the right to prevent confusing or misleading use of it. The school is a technology school, but they’re also a school — an apple is a pretty common symbol for education. It seems like “even a moron in a hurry” would recognize the difference between the two logos, especially since the acronym “VSBT” is part of the school’s. The real problem here seems to be the requirement of trademark law that the holder of a mark actively polices its use. This requirement encourages these sorts of cease and desist letters, even if it seems like a comparison between apples and oranges.

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Companies: apple

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Comments on “Apple Forgets About the Moron In A Hurry Test, Threatens School With An Apple In Its Logo”

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22 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

In Canada, we don’t worry about moron’s in a hurry. We have, enshrined in precedent, the “reasonable man test”.

That means we don’t worry what a moron (or Apple lawyer) would confuse only what the average reasonable person might think. I know what you’re thinking, reasonable people don’t exist in law. But, that’s the precedent.

Apple’s only chance is to get the school to run away from law bills.

Ed G. says:

Why not...

Hey Apple. How about going after that pesky “Apple Capital of the World” Wenatchee, WA? Or any of the many apple packers from Washington that use an apple in their logos? It sure seems that far too many people would end up buying a box of apples all the while thinking they were getting a kick ass Mac G5…ummm….ya think? Oh by the way, if you do file suit and win any monetary award, I will file a claim for my finder’s fee. Sound unreasonable? So is your litigious nature.

Anonymous Coward says:

There are sufficient similarities that I can understand why it might be of interest to Apple. It is the letter that was sent by a relatively junior associate in a large firm that I find mystifying. Experience tells me the letter writer has been spending time with the managers of the law firm trying to explain what the heck she was thinking before sending out something so dumb. I could be wrong, but my gut tells me she has likely hurt her chances of ever becoming a partner in the firm.

It used to be, until the mid to late ’80s, that matters such as these were typically handled by IP firms that were thoroughly grounded in all aspects of IP law, due in large part to the critical need to understand how all of these various IP law operate in tandem. Since then general practice firms have inserted themselves into this area of law, and in many instances have an imperfect understanding of what the body of law actually represents…and letters such as this exemplify much of the problem (not only in trademarks matters, but also in copyright and patent matters, and in particular litigation).

Hopefully cooler heads will prevail and Apple will direct the firm, if the firm has not done so already, to change its stance and work with the school to cooperatively develop a mutually acceptable solution.

claire rand says:

free PR

how hard would it be for organisations like this to reach an agreement?

there is then no dilution of the trademark since its being ‘licensed’ probably for a minimal amount, possibly with the “value” of the agreement equalled by a corporate donation to the organisation (in the case where it will allow a tax write down).

the company (e.g. apple) doesn’t make a huge song and dance, but gets a one liner at the bottom of the poster or paperwork using the logo (not on the basic signs) indicated the logo appears with the agreement of “x”

no actual need for this, but it avoids expensive legal spats and _bad_ PR.

then this can be used as an example of how open to discussions the company is when they feel the need to drop the hammer on something that “harms” the brand?

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