Trademark Infringement and Apple – a familiar story?

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It’s been widely reported that Apple is being sued by iCloud Communications, an Arizona based company, following its announcement about the launch Apple iCloud Services.

iCloud Communications’ lawsuit states that Apple is infringing its trademarked name iCloud. Apple has been involved in numerous lawsuits to do with copyright and trademark infringement within the last few years.

The idea behind Apple’s iCloud Services is that it will allow users to store all their data, such as music and photos, on the secure servers for easy access.  The service will be available from this Autumn and will be free to use for the first 5GB of storage.

iCloud Communications have stated that the online services Apple is providing are very similar to what they themselves provide:  ‘The goods and services with which Apple intends to use the ‘iCloud’ mark are identical to or closely related to the goods and services that have been offer by iCloud Communications under iCloud Marks since its formation in 2005.’

The company claims its business is already being affected by Apple’s new service announcement. It believes the term ‘iCloud’ is now being associated with Apple rather than with iCloud Communications, and so the company is seeking monetary relief.  It is also requiring Apple to stop using the name iCloud for any of its services.

It is not the first time Apple has been faced with lawsuits and allegations over trademark infringement. Even the name Apple sparked a legal battle with Apple Corp, the Beatle’s Record labe.  That trademark infringement dispute was resolved when Apple agreed not to use the name for music. Even once Apple launched iTunes, the company still got round the suit by agreeing to include the Beatle’s albums in their iTunes library. Following this, Apple has entered into a number of other legal battles over names they have adopted for their products or services.

For example, Apple has fought with Cisco over the name ‘iPhone’, and is fighting with Microsoft and McIntosh labs of Macintosh computers over the name ‘App Store’. So Apple’s clash with iCloud Communications follows in the line of many others.

Using such common names as Apple has chosen to do, it is not surprising that the company has run into a fair amount of legal trouble over them. Apple’s use of the lower-case ‘i’ being placed in front of common words is bound to result in other companies who also have similar names and ideas.

iCloud Communications in its lawsuit even pointed out Apple’s tendency to do so. They stated,although Apple aggressively protects its trademark rights, Apple has a long and well known history of knowingly and willfully treading on the trademark rights of others’

Apple has already spent $4.5 million on purchasing the domain name icloud.com, whilst iCloud Communications owns the domain name geticloud.com. So far Apple has not commented on the lawsuit, but by the look of things Apple must once again fight off a trademark suit in order to keep the name. In previous cases Apple has managed to settle out of court and has not had to change its desired product names. Will Apple be able to do the same this time?