Could Apple's Lawyers Really Not Understand That Reporting Isn't Copyright Infringement?

from the seems-unlikely dept

Apple is notorious in the legal efforts they undertake to keep their secrets secret and to protect their intellectual property. However, it seems that some of Apple's lawyers may have a trigger finger that's a little too itchy. Following the announcement of the iPhone last week, someone created a skin for Windows Mobile devices that looks just like the iPhone's interface (though, of course, it doesn't actually work like the iPhone interface). It's reasonable to expect that Apple's lawyers would try to stop the person who created the software from distributing it (which would certainly be a reasonable trademark claim, though, not a particularly useful one). However, rather than doing that, they've been sending cease-and-desists at any blogs talking about it and posting the images of the Windows Mobile skin. It's clearly not a trademark infringement to report on the situation, but here's where Apple's lawyers get even odder. Rather than claiming a trademark infringement claim, they're actually calling it a copyright infringement issue -- which isn't just wrong, it's egregiously wrong.

The lawyers claim copyright over the icons, but you can't stop someone from using them in a report about them, which is clearly fair use. It's also not trademark infringement (if they decided to go down that route). It's just bullying. Michael Arrington, over at TechCrunch, has posted the image as well, pointing out how ridiculous this is. Some of the comments to his post show the level of confusion out there around the law. It is true that if you don't protect your trademark you can lose it, but that's not what's going on here at all. First, it's not trademark law they're using, and the same thing doesn't apply to copyrights. Second, even if it was trademark law they were using, they wouldn't have a case against those who were simply reporting the story and showing the image (they probably would against anyone selling the software, however). It's yet another example of lawyers simply using intellectual property law to bully those who are doing something they don't like, not something illegal.

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  1. identicon
    Johnny Appleseed, 16 Jan 2007 @ 2:44am


    Let's hope Apple is SUCCESSFUL in suing the reporters blind and that no reporters will ever use Apple product images in their stories again, or even their own independent photos of Apple products. I mean, using the Apple image clearly does NOTHING for Apple's sales, as anyone who can read and who is even interested in news rather than SpikeTV-ish television is already too intelligent to be lured into Apple's web of DRM. The only thing these reporters get by using Apple's image is exploiting Apple's products in order to boost their own click fraud levels. Surely Apple deserves a piece of that pie, so let the lawsuits be their way of cutting out their share. And if reporters feel that's unfair, aren't there already enough public-domain images of dog crap that they can use to accurately represent the product instead??

    As an aside, I think now that Apple has become Apple Inc. instead of Apple Computer Inc., the Beatles and the folks at THEIR Apple should fire up their lawsuit again. Because sure Apple *COMPUTER* won last time, but part of the argument there was that no one would confuse Apple Computer Inc. with the Beatles' Apple because the word Computer so clearly put Apple in the computer industry, not the music industry. Picture Jobs foaming, "WE'RE APPLE *COMPUTER* FOR CRIPESSAKE!! ARRRGHGHGHGHGH ! ARRGHGH! ARGHGHGH! *COMPUTER* SEE ! ARRRGHH! " What's he gonna say this time around?

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