A while back, Apple Inc. decided to sue New York City for using a green apple logo to promote an environmental campaign, claiming that the logo used for the campaign might be easily confused with that of the electronics manufacturer. While visiting York, PA, I was reminded that there is a Chevrolet/Cadillac dealer there named “Apple” that also uses an apple as its logo:
The company’s logo is clearly an apple. Even its name is “Apple”. It certainly looks a lot more like the Apple Inc. logo than the NYC campaign’s logo did:
In fact, while they’re at it, why not sue the Issaquah Schools Foundation for its apple logo that looks an awful lot like Apple Inc.’s?Or maybe go after the Greater Stockton Emergency Food Bank for its apple logo?
Or Borden’s Orchard?
Or Wenatchee, WA, which bills itself as the “Apple Capital of the World”?
Or how about Apple Electrics which uses an apple with a bite taken out of it as their logo?
What’s my point here? It’s simple. Apples exist in nature. The image of the apple is widely associated with education (as in bringing the teacher an apple), health and nutrition (as in “an apple a day keeps the doctor away”), and of course New York City itself (“The Big Apple”). Apples are also associated with concepts like sin (Adam and Eve taking a bite of the forbidden fruit). By choosing the name “Apple” and using a relatively generic image based on the fruit, Apple Inc. will almost by definition be confusing its image with that of many other organizations. As iconic as Apple Inc.’s logo might be, it isn’t reasonable to expect that other companies and organizations won’t use the image of an apple in their literature. Just by calling itself Apple Inc., they don’t have exclusive dominion over the word or the image of the fruit. They have a right to protect their specific apple-themed logo, and a right to disassociate the company Apple Inc. from products it didn’t create. What they don’t have a right to do is stomp all over every apple image used everywhere.
If they really want to protect themselves from association with things they aren’t part of, it might be wise to change the company name to something completely original that doesn’t exist in nature. As long as they continue to call themselves Apple Inc. they’re going to have to be fighting the use of Apple logos worldwide, all the time.