In the same week that Apple announced its plans to launch its iCloud service later this year (as a replacement to its less-than-impressive MobileMe service), Apple has been slapped with a lawsuit. The lawsuit was filed yesterday in U.S. District Court in Arizona by iCloud Communications, LLC. The suit alleges:
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 offered by iCloud Communications under the iCloud Marks since its formation in 2005. However, due to the worldwide media coverage given to and generated by Apple’s announcement of its “iCloud” services and the ensuing saturation advertising campaign pursued by Apple, the media and the general public have quickly come to associate the mark “iCloud” with Apple, rather than iCloud Communications.
A copy of the complaint may be found here.
Relatedly, German company, Simfy, has filed a lawsuit against Apple, claiming Apple rejected its iPod app (yes, “app” means application) because Simfy is a potential competitor to Apple’s iCloud service.
While Apple certainly markets its i-formative marks and products better than its competitors, Apple has rarely been first to market with many of those i-formative marks.
- Cisco owned a 1999 registration for iPhone for “computer hardware and software for providing integrated telephone communication with computerized global information networks” long before Apple filed its first iPhone application in 2006;
- InPub, LLC filed an application for iPhone in 1999; Apple filed its own in 2001; and
- Mag-Tek, Inc. owns a 2008 registration (filed in 2000) of iPad for “KEYPADS FOR ENTRY OF PERSONAL IDENTIFICATION NUMBERS IN E-COMMERCE” (Apple first filed for iPad in 2003).
Let’s not forget Apple chose Mighty Mouse as the name for its first wireless mouse despite the fact that Mighty Mouse is a famous and iconic 20th Century Fox character.
Finally, McIntosh Labaratory had been using McIntosh as a trademark for audio, video and stereo equipment since 1978. Apple’s first application for MacIntosh was not filed until 1984.
In all fairness, Apple does seem to be the first to have used and filed for iTunes. (Even a broken clock has the right time twice a day.)
Despite Apple’s origins (or at least its original marketing stance) as an anti-establishment company (see its first ad here), Apple has become that which it first advertised against 25 years ago.
We suspect that Apple will ultimately pay iCloud Communications to own (or license) the mark iCloud. It should nonetheless be an interesting case to follow.