Do Morons In A Hurry Shop For iPhones At Woolworths Down Under?

from the confusion-time dept

Ah, the glorious trademark dispute. Apparently Apple is quite upset at Woolworths, the Australia and New Zealand supermarket chain (apparently not connected to the now defunct chain in the US, though that is where the name came from), because the Woolworths down under has decided to use a logo with a stylized W made to sorta, kinda, maybe if you squint and shake your head rapidly look like Apple’s apple logo, but not really:

Honestly, I have no idea how anyone can claim the two logos are similar in a way that might lead to even the slightest bit of confusion. The claim from Apple is that its concern is that Woolworths wants the mark to potentially include electronics and technology, should it decide to sell those. But, even so, no one would confuse these two. No one would think that there’s any likelihood of one endorsing the other even slightly.

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Companies: apple, woolworths

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Comments on “Do Morons In A Hurry Shop For iPhones At Woolworths Down Under?”

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Brooks (profile) says:

Re: Re: Oh for frak's sake

Crap, is that the word for defense attorneys who mount a legitimate defense even if they personally doubt a client’s innocence?

Lawyers are obligated to represent their clients’ interests. Whether to pursue trademark claims like this is a business decision made by business people. The lawyers merely advise on odds of winning and execute whatever decision is made (note that some lawyers are also executives).

Heck, I’m not a lawyer, generally don’t like ’em that much, but let’s at least put blame where it belongs.

Marcus Carab (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Oh for frak's sake

I agree that it’s not fair to simply beat up on lawyers, especially not individual ones.

But I don think some (a lot?) of the blame for IP issues falls on lawyers. In a situation like this, for example, I find it unlikely that challenging this logo was some sort of large-scale corporate decision, handed down from big-picture thinkers to the legal department. More likely it was part of the day-to-day work of the trademark department: hunting down anything that could possibly be called infringement, and then targeting it with injunctions and lawsuits.

“Protecting trademarks” has become nothing more than a mechanical procedure at a lot of companies, and is managed by departments staffed entirely with lawyers, who all get a nice paycheque and would like it to stay that way. At no point in a situation like this one does anyone ask “What are the pros/cons of pursuing this to our company as a whole?” or even “Does this *really* count as infrigement?” – the only question asked is “Can we win?”

Nick Coghlan says:

Re: Woolworth Could Have Saved Themselves Some Trouble

I shop at Woolworths every week – they definitely sell electronics. Think things like toasters, kettles, heaters, fans, battery chargers, etc. They also have items like sheets, DVDs, etc. Sure, those things aren’t the focus of the supermarkets, but they’re there.

It makes a little more sense when you consider that the same company also owns Big W, a department store chain. Diverting some of the department store products to appear on the shelves at the supermarket chain isn’t exactly difficult for them and can lead to extra sales.

Nick Coghlan says:

Re: Re: Woolworth Could Have Saved Themselves Some Trouble

Technically, several of the things I listed would be “electrical goods” rather than “electronics” per se. They definitely do sell some electronics however – pretty much everything that they sell at Big W is a candidate for appearing on the shelves at Woolworths (especially cheaper items that would fall into the ‘impulse buy’ price range for many people).

Vic says:

Some comments there are very interesting to read too.
On another thought: Apple should start protecting all similar fruit logos as well. Just to be on a safe side. Expand it to pears, oranges, mango and so on. I’m not sure about vegetables, though… But a tomato can also be green and has a stem and leaves… Shaky ground.

Michael Kohne says:


I’m sure Woolworth’s just wants to keep their options open (they are into a bit more than just groceries. Look at their network of Petrol stations, for instance. Caltex supplies the Petrol, but those are Woolworth’s stations). They probably do plan to expand into other markets (like electronics sales).

I suspect they designed their logo based on the fact that they do sell a LOT of groceries. And frankly, it seems like Apple is REALLY going out long on this one – even if they are in the same market, I don’t think those logos are close enough to be a problem.

Anonymous Coward says:

Do Morons In A Hurry Shop For iPhones At Woolworths Down Under?

No, they shop for Prés at Telstra, which until recently was run by Mr. Solomon Trujillo.

But, I have to admit, the clever use of “The Happy Hedgehog” film in the ‘Silence your phone’ by Sprint in the previews of “Capitalism: A Love Story”.

Mikey always says hello, but usually by biting. Sorry about the frame size, but HD was all I had available.

slackr (profile) says:

Ahhh but what is an Apple?

Customer: I’d like to buy and apple please
Shop assistant: is that the iPod Touch or Granny Smith?

Give me a break Apple. Dare I say that supermarkets existed well before a technology company started using fruit as a logo…

Personally I think the giant red writing underneath that says Woolworths gives the game away! Besides if someone can’t read that, they’re hardly going to spring for a piece of technology that’s infinitely more complex to use.

william (profile) says:

supposed to be nothing major... yet

According to the Engadget article I just read,, Apple just filed an “opposition”.

Supposingly company files “opposition” all the time in order to show (a history) that they are “defending” their trademark, or else they’ll risk losing their trademark.

Once the filing period is over and an actual lawsuit becomes real then it’s a major event. Right now, not so much (according to Engadget).

Frosty840 says:

Well, Mike, to use your own test in these circumstances, yes, a moron in a hurry could easily confuse those two logos.

Granted, those of us who’ve been saturated in Apple’s marketing nonsense for their dreadful products for the better part of the last decade probably wouldn’t mistake any Apple packaging for that of whatever devices Woolworths decides to release, but given that (A) people really are stupid (B) supermarkets will try anything to make a fast buck (C) Woolworths won’t either confirm or deny whether they’re planning to make any iProduct ripoffs, I pretty much have to sympathise with Apple here in that because Woolworths won’t give them any reassurances, they’ve got to go on an early trademark-protection offensive.

I don’t, however, have to like it.

rwahrens (profile) says:

Just another Techdirt hit piece on Apple

Mike doesn’t seem to like Apple much. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him say anything nice about them. Just negative stuff.

This is really just Apple protesting the inclusion of the Woolworth’s logo into the consumer electronics market. Mike knows that companies defend similarities to their logos all the time when a potential competitor comes up with one even remotely comparable. Trademark law is not like copyright, which does not have to be defended vigorously to stand up in court.

Apple may not even expect the Aussie government to come down on their side, but this is further proof that Apple takes regular action to defend their trademark.

This action may come in handy someday in a real court action against a real threat, as a reference to Apple’s vigor in protecting that trademark.

Come on, Mike, give it a rest.

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