Thursday, October 8, 2009

Apple's new logo dispute: brand reputation vs. trademark protection

I saw an interesting picture these days of 2 logos standing next to each other (see below).

Although the colours and design concept were different, the overall look implied a similar brand identity: an apple standing for the idea of “freshness”. The first logo, belongs to Australian largest supermarket chain Woolworths (over 780 stores) and its counterpart logo - to Apple.

Woolworths changed its logo in 2008 as part of a rebranding to link its commitment to fresh food, insisting that the logo represents the letter “W”, rather than an apple. Still, when put together, the apple image would most probably come first.

Which was Apple’s response? They have now applied to IP Australia, the national body that regulates intellectual property (cited by, to have Woolworths' trademark rejected. The claimed motive leads to few differentiating features.

Moreover, Apple fears that the supermarket chain could place its logo on own-brand electronic equipment, which might be sold in direct competition to iPhones, iPods and Apple computers.

On the other hand, despite its cool image Apple is also known for being excessively aggressive when it comes to its trademark protection. Thus, it was involved in a 30-year legal spat with Apple Corps, the company set up by The Beatles to represent their interests. That issue has only been solved 2 years ago.

So has Apple any reasons for concern? What would you say? Btw, the Australian Woolworths has no connection to the failed UK retail chain of the same name.

Thanks to my Twitter pals for posting the related news links: Telegraph (, TG Daily (, Mashable (
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Vivien on October 8, 2009 at 9:14 PM said...

Indeed, Apple has matter for concerns. Suppose that a google, or microsoft or dell or any other tech company ends up buying out wollworths after their new apple-like logo got adopted. Then it's no brainer that apple is in hot soup. Prevention costs far less than cure.

NMO on October 9, 2009 at 12:06 AM said...

Thank you for this comment, Vivien. Prevention is indeed a wise consideration in any marketing strategy.

Cristian Vava, CEO at Innovatorium, USA said...

I assume Apple lawyers know they stand no chance to win on this. However this was a strategic decision to show they are determined to fight at any cost against anyone that may create even the perception of an infringement irrespective of their size, location, and connections. It’s just a forward looking harassment performance one of the most horrendous duties of a powerful brand manager.

This may be for the media a replacement of the older lawsuit with The Beatles’ Apple Corps. If this is the case then they may play a dangerous card since this lawsuit may drain their resources and the next big one could either skip or severely damage their reputation. My grandfather was saying that a dog could bark at many foes at the same time but can’t bite more than one at a time…

(Grateful to Cristian Vava, USA for sharing this comment on LinkedIn group: eMarketing Association Network), transfered upon prior consent of the author.

Alan Jordan on October 19, 2009 at 9:58 AM said...

I can see both points of view. This will be an interesting court case. Please keep us updated.

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