Apple challenges Woolworths over logo

By Julian Lee, Marketing Editor
Updated November 5 2012 - 10:46pm, first published October 4 2009 - 11:15pm
The Woolworths logo, left, and the Apple logo.
The Woolworths logo, left, and the Apple logo.

Woolworths insists its new logo is a stylised W, or a piece of fresh produce; Apple thinks it is an apple, and the California-based technology company wants to stop Australia's largest retailer from using it.Apple has mounted a legal challenge to prevent Woolworths from using the logo that now adorns its trucks, stores and products, arguing it is too close to its own.Apple will have to convince IP Australia, the federal government agency that governs trademarks, to knock back Woolworths's application - first filed in August last year - to trademark its logo.Apple is spooked by the fact that Woolworths has gone for a blanket trademark that would allow it to slap its branding and logo on every imaginable product.Woolworths' application includes a wide class for all electrical goods and technology, thereby putting it in direct competition with Apple should the retailer choose to brand computers, music players or other devices. Woolworths has gone into credit cards and mobile phones, so the likelihood of it going into computers is not as remote as it seems.A Woolworths spokesman said: ''While we can't rule anything out, we haven't got any plans at the moment.''A lesser class of trademark application, that for retail stores, also potentially pits Woolworths against Apple, which is ramping up its retail presence.Ever since it unveiled its new logo a year ago, Woolworths has been at pains to avoid using the word apple in any commentary.The man who designed it, Hans Hulsbosch, said Apple was taking trademark protection ''to the extreme''.''Based on this logic, they would have to take action against every fruitseller,'' Mr Hulsbosch said.A trademark lawyer, Trevor Choy, said it was common for Apple to prevent anyone from using anything that resembled an apple in a logo or marketing.''They are just covering off any eventualities,'' Mr Choy said.But less than 5 per cent of such actions actually make it to court, he said. ''This is often the prelude to settling [the matter]. I doubt it'll go all the way unless, of course, Woolworths decides that they want to go into computers … I doubt Apple expects to win."Apple is also taking action against a music festival promoter, Poison Apple, which has applied to trademark an apple with a bite out of it atop crossed bones, and Foxtel, whose branding for a new pornography channel, Adults Only, is an apple together with an arrow and a devil's tail..Apple declined to comment.

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