Apple Inc. has announced today a lawsuit seeking to protect its distinctive 'bitten apple' logo from "blatant and abusive trademark infringement".
The suit filed in U.S. District Court in Detroit alleges that Michigan-based Apple Charlie's Orchards of "knowingly copying and distributing for commercial purposes a logo which infringes upon the look and feel of our trademarked design."
Apple is asking the court to ban the family-owned apple farm and cider mill from operating in the United States for five years and force it to pay substantial compensatory and punitive damages.
The Cupertino, CA based company has come under fire in recent months for its legal battles with Samsung and other Android phone manufacturers it says have "stolen" its intllecual property to better compete in the smartphone market.
Critics accuse Apple of pursuing petty nusiance claims over industry standard features in order to stifle its rivals' product development. Apple says it is simply defending its "right to innovate".
Not Far From The Tree
Previously limited to patents, the Apple Charlie's case is the first time Apple has applied its new-found litigiousness to trademarks.
Bruce Sewell, Apple's Senior Vice-President of Legal and Government Affairs explains that the company had no choice but to act aggressively:
"Sure a lot of companies have apples in their logos. Apples are a very common fruit. But this apple has a bite taken out of it. And so does ours. That makes all the differnce. These scumbags are clearly trying to piggyback on our popularity, and we're not going to stand for it."
Bill Brighton, manager of Apple Charlie's, tells a different story:
"I don't know what their lawyers are talking about. When we designed the logo in 1996, we just took a clipart file and put our name over it. We were thinking about apples - which are our livelihood - not Apple Computer. Weren't they practically bankrupt then anyway?"
Brighton says black vans have been circling his farm for weeks taking photos of every sign which contains the logo, and his iPhone mysteriously stopped working the day after the suit was filed.
Apple is seeking $7 million in compenstory damages, plus $2 millon for the "emotional distress" the situation has caused its employees.
"We have thousands of people trying desperately to work knowing another company has a similar, uglier logo to that of their employer," Sewell explains "You can't put a price on the pain and suffering that causes. But we've tried."