Turning over a new leaf with Apple and A.pl

September 14, 2012

Apples to a.plsIf there’s a common theme to my posts thus far, it’s a skepticism of the positions articulated by many of the plaintiffs in the big intellectual property cases in the news lately.  I attribute this to my soft spot for underdogs; seeing a scrappy but tenacious fighter come out in top will get me every time. (Perhaps I’ve seen too many legal movies?)

So, as an experiment, I am going to consciously try to change that way of thinking — open-mindedness is good in business, right? — as we look at what I found to be an interesting recent intellectual property story: Apple’s intellectual property complaint against the Polish online grocery store site A.pl

The basis of this dispute is Apple’s assertion that at one point, A.pl used one of its trademarked icons as the basis, at least, for its own logo. It has also filed a complaint with the Polish intellectual property office, claiming that A.pl is capitalizing on its positive brand image and reputation by using a name similar to “Apple.”

(In Poland, “Pl” is the equivalent of “.com,” so the American equivalent of the website at issue would be “A.com.”)

Now, it seems like A.pl’s current logo has been overhauled, but TechDirt has an image of a previous one that’s a green orb topped by a teardrop figure — a stylized apple. I don’t know if that’s the one Apple is mad about, but either way, the only similarity is that they between the two that I can detect is that they both vaguely call to mind that piece of fruit I had in my lunch the other day. And I am not sure I agree that people in Warsaw are going to think they had their borscht delivered by the same company that makes that little device Cousin Magdalena in Chicago calls them on.

But wait — that’s the old me that’s talking! The new me doesn’t say things like that.

The new me understands that, in an intellectual property context, companies have to strike first and justify for their actions later, lest courts accuse them of failing to protect their intellectual property assets. The new me knows that Apple has to be preemptive and nip any possible infringement in the bud, because if it doesn’t act now, who knows what A.pl will do tomorrow? And the new me understands that Apple has invested time and serious money in crafting its image and reputation and so should get to enjoy the fruits (the apples?) of those investments without worrying that someone across the Atlantic is going to piggyback off them.

The new me! The new me! The new me…still isn’t quite convinced. But hey, Rome wasn’t built in a day. Personal growth takes time.