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Apple vs. Apples: How the Tech Giant Is Trying to Trademark Fruit in One European Country

For most of Fruit Union Suisse’s 111-year history, it has had a red apple with a white cross as its logo, calling to mind Switzerland‘s unique flag. The group is the oldest and largest fruit farmers organization in the alpine country, but despite its lengthy history, it might have to change its symbol due to legal challenges from a much younger (but much wealthier) entity: Apple Inc. 

Apple has been attempting to gain intellectual property rights to depictions of apples in Switzerland since 2017. Rather than protect their iconic insignia that everyone knows, the tech giant is looking to get the rights to any portrayal of the fruit in media. 

“We have a hard time understanding this, because it’s not like they’re trying to protect their bitten apple,” Fruit Union Suisse director Jimmy Mariéthoz told WIRED. “Their objective here is really to own the rights to an actual apple, which, for us, is something that is really almost universal…. That should be free for everyone to use.”

Mariéthoz worries about the lack of clarity around what types of apple shapes Apple will try to protect. The company has been known to aggressively pursue cases where it perceives its intellectual property or trademarks have been infringed. 

“We’re concerned that any visual representation of an apple—so anything that’s audiovisual or linked to new technologies or to media—could be potentially impacted. That would be a very, very big restriction for us,” he said. “Theoretically, we could be entering slippery territory every time we advertise with an apple.”

The issue is still playing out in Swiss court and its decision will not be known for months or even years. Swiss apple growers aren’t trying to break into the tech business, but they still might have to undergo a costly rebrand if the government rules in the corporation’s favor. 

“We’re not looking to compete with Apple; we have no intention of going into the same field as them,” Mariéthoz said. He went on to point out perhaps the most obvious fact in this situation. “You know, Apple didn’t invent apples,” he noted. “We have been around for 111 years. And I think apples have been around for a few thousand more.”

In this case, an apple a day might not keep the lawyer away. 

Source: Men’s Journal



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