Last summer news surfaced of a David-and-Goliath battle between a small indie developer and Apple over the use of a logo that the tech giant’s legal team had claimed was too similar to theirs to confuse customers.
The claim seemed ridiculous on the surface of it, since the logo being used by the smaller developer, Super Healthy Kids for its app Prepear doesn’t seem to bear an even superficial resemblance to Apple’s iconic logo. That hasn’t stopped Apple’s horde of lawyers from descending upon the small five-person shop to try and block its use of the logo, however, stating that it “creates a similar commercial impression” due to its use of a “minimalistic fruit design with a right-angled leaf.”
It’s a story we’ve heard many times before; the number of only vaguely similar logos that Apple has objected to in the past is rather surprising, but the difference here is that Russell Monson, the co-founder of Super Healthy Kids and the Prepear app that’s at the centre of the case, has decided not to simply roll over and change his company’s logo.
Instead, Monson took his case to social media and created a petition on Change.org that quickly gained over 250,000 signatures in support of ending “Apple’s aggressive opposition of businesses with fruit logos.”
While Monson’s petition initially appeared to have little effect on the Apple juggernaut, which actually doubled-down on its opposition by extending the fight to other countries, it now appears that cooler heads may suddenly be prevailing.
A Christmas Truce?
According to new filings with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s Trademark Trial and Appeal Board uncovered by MacRumors, it looks like the ongoing dispute has temporarily been put on hold while Super Healthy Kids and Apple attempt to negotiate a settlement.
To be clear, Apple has not dropped its case against the Prepear logo, but it appears that the company is at least ready to come to the negotiating table and talk about it — something that it was clearly not willing to do back in August; despite repeated attempts by Monson to talk to Apple’s lawyers at the time, they refused to discuss the matter at all, instead pushing the trademark dispute into the much more expensive discovery phase, perhaps simply hoping to win by attrition by draining the smaller company’s legal budget dry.
In fact, even after Monson sent the petition with 200,000+ signatures to Apple’s PR team, he was greeted with nothing but a stonewall of silence. Many journalists, ourselves included, also received no response from Apple PR — not even the typical canned PR response about needing to defend its intellectual property.
While it’s unclear what has suddenly prompted Apple to go to the negotiating table with Super Healthy Kids, it certainly offers some hope for a happy ending to this case, as it definitely hasn’t been a good look for Apple up to this point. Even the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office originally deemed Prepear’s logo as being “not in conflict” with any other registered trademarks, however the law requires that new trademark applications be published for a period of time to allow other companies to oppose them, and not only did Apple file its opposition, but it did so on the very last day possible, and then requested multiple extensions after that, in what seemed like an attempt to draw the case out and make it as expensive as possible for the smaller company.
So perhaps the court of public opinion has actually made somebody within the upper echelons of Apple realize that they at least have to appear to be less intransigent about the case and try to discuss the matter, although at this point we have no way of knowing how flexible Apple is willing to be in its negotiations, so while we’re certainly hoping that an amenable settlement will be reached, based on Apple’s past behaviour when it comes to its trademarks, these negotiations could just be another form of “persuasion” on Apple’s part now that it seems apparent that Super Healthy Kids isn’t about to give up without a fight.
In fact, at this point either party is free to walk away from the table and resume the proceedings at any time, and if a settlement is not reached by January 23, 2021, the normal pretrial discovery process will kick back in, which is expected to start in March, with main trial briefs not scheduled to occur until October.