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.

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Companies: apple

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Comments on “Copyright Fight Brewing Over Who 'Owns' Steve Jobs Silhouette Inside The Apple Logo”

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38 Comments
John Doe says:

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?

Jay (profile) says:

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..

Ninja (profile) says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

” 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.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: 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?

Greevar (profile) says:

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

Nike says:

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.

Steve Ansell says:

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.

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