Apple’s iPhone X is still a week away from going up for pre-order, and yet the tech-giant has already been hit with a lawsuit challenging its use of ‘Animoji’ — the trademark name behind one of its high-end handset’s intriguing new emoji animation feature.
In a complaint filed on Wednesday with the U.S. District Count for the Northern District of California, Enrique Bonansea — a U.S. citizen currently residing in Japan — alleges that he registered for the “Animoji” name back in 2014 through his company “emonster k.k.”, which is listed as a co-plaintiff in court documents, as first disclosed by The Recorder.
A software development firm based out of Tokyo, Japan, emonster k.k., or simply ‘Emonster’, wasn’t officially granted rights to the “Animoji” name until 2015 — however the namesake was applied to company’s ‘Animoji – Free Animated Texting [Patent Pending]’ app, which was published to the iOS App Store back on July 23, 2014, and is still available to download for $0.99 today.
Described as a “fast, free and easy-to-use tool to animate your text and email messages,” the app offers a fairly extensive library of animated emojis which users can embed within Messages and emails.
In court documents, Bonansea says he was approached by an Apple “front” over the summer, whose reps allegedly tried to pressure him into selling the Animoji name. Bonansea resisted and the reps allegedly threatened him, indicating they would file a motion to cancel the ‘Animoji’ name with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office.
While there’s no hard evidence linking Apple to the alleged “fronts”, it’s plausible Apple was involved in the “negotiations” simply based on its history of establishing “fronts” — de-facto companies, which are set up as a veil to help safeguard its secrets.
The lawsuit indicates that just one day prior to the September 12th debut of the iPhone X, Apple filed for a cancellation of Bonansea’s “Animoji” patent, citing that Washington-based “Emonster, Inc.” didn’t exist at the time of the original filing. Which is theoretically true, as Bonansea first established emonster k.k. in Japan, before he established Emonster, Inc. in Seattle, Washington. Bonansea’s lawsuit points out that both entities acted as a “single commercial enterprise” when Bonansea initially applied for the Animoji name.
Bonansea’s company, emonster k.k., reapplied for the “Animoji” name on the same day iPhone X was unveiled, citing his app’s 2014 launch date, but his new claim was ultimately rejected as Apple’s request to cancel was already submitted one day prior.
We’ll just have to let the courts determine what happens from here. Bonansea and Emonster are seeking “a permanent injunction against Apple’s use of Animoji, damages, profits attributable to the mark and court fees.”