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Wednesday, 16 August 2006 17:52

Apple tries to close the POD door

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Those of us old enough to have watched Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey a dozen times or more since 1968, will never forget the pivotal line of the movie: "Open the pod bay door, Hal!" If so, you probably also remember a time when we used to buy fresh green peas in their pods instead of frozen peas in plastic packets. Apple Computer, however, seems to believe it pretty much owns the name POD.

In fact, Apple (Apple Computer, not the Beatles' Apple Corp) is trying to register the POD trademark in Europe. One would think it doesn't have a hope in hell in any English speaking country.

That said, iPod is a pretty catchy name and certainly a trademark worth protecting. However, a quick visit to your Roget Thesaurus will tell you that synonyms for the word pod include: capsule, case, covering, hull, husk, sheath, sheathing, shell, shuck, skin, vessel.

Thus, when a self-employed woman decides to start a cottage industry business making fancy laptop sheaths made out of recycled spandex tights, one would think that the name TightPod is not only a clever but a perfectly reasonable and appropriate name for which to register a trademark application. Not according to Apple.

The venerable computer and music player company has sent TightPod creator Terry Wilson a threatening cease and desist letter, claiming incredibly that the name of her product could cause confusion between her brand and the iPod. To add further weight to this claim, Apple points out that one of the products that Wilson makes is a sheath (or pod) for MP3 players. Heavens, it could even be used with an iPod.
However, a TightPod is a sheath, a cover, not an electronic device. In fact, its name far more accurately conveys what its purpose is than does iPod.

Naturally, Apple with considerable financial and legal resources at its disposal, believes it can simply frighten a self-employed sole operator into instant capitulation. Unfortunately for Apple, Wilson has replied that she will go to court if necessary to protect her right to use the name. However, she is willing to compromise, offering Apple the very reasonable option of compensating her to the tune of US$10,000 to pay for half the costs of coming up with another brand.

Frankly, this is the sort of publicity Apple doesn't need and its actions in this case have made it appear to be very much the corporate bully beating up on the small people. One would think that Apple, which makes some wonderful products that make a lot of money for its shareholders, would be well advised to cease and desist from this type of behaviour.

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Stan Beer

 

Stan Beer co-founded iTWire in 2005. With 30 plus years of experience working in IT and Australian technology media, Beer has published articles in most of the IT publications that have mattered, including the AFR, The Australian, SMH, The Age, as well as a multitude of trade publications.

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