Apple loses trademark battle to Swatch, yet again
Apple is one of the most well-known American manufacturers of computers, smartphones, tablets, computer peripherals and software and is amazingly popular for its graphic user interface, with its headquarters at Cupertino, California. Throughout the years, Apple has faced various legal battles with various companies for other reasons. Recently, Apple got into a trademark dispute with the leading watch manufacturing company Swatch for their tag line ‘One More Thing’. The High Court rejected the allegations of Apple which alleged that Swatch had the intention to use these marks to skit Apple and hence led to bad faith.
Even if the intention was a parody on behalf of Swatch, it does not requisite to a dishonest business practice which would justify bad faith, quite annoying for Apple.
The phrase used by Steve jobs during promotional launches, ONE MORE THING, is much popular and well-known amongst the fans and seen in associated with the company. It was quite a desired act performed by Jobs where he would finish up his presentation, start to walk away and then turn back to add a major announcement with the phrase “BUT THERE’S ONE MORE THING”. In 2015, Tim Cook brought the phase back to life while introducing the Apple watch. Shortly after this, Swatch filed their application for trademark registration which Apple opposed.
Initially, Apple was successful in opposing the trademark registration procedure. The Hearing Officer sided with Apple that the intention of Swatch was to use the mark to parody Apple and hence, it amounted to bad faith. Under UK Trademark Act law, bad faith is a ground for absolute refusal, hence it would lead to the failure of the applications by Swatch.
An appeal was presented by Swatch to the High Court where the court stated that there was no particular proof that Swatch had the intention to use the mark to undermine and parody Apple. Almost all of the evidence given by Apple was based on speculation of certain parties but there was no hard proof. On the other hand, Swatch never really gave a clear intention as to the use of the mark, maybe a tactical move on their part. The judge on the case determined if Swatch just had a desire to annoy Apple could be enough to lead to bad faith. It was concluded that it was not, on the basis that “annoyance of a business is not a concept which is capable of objective analysis”.
The argument which took place regarding the applicability of a mark in bad faith could be used for opposition and invalidation of a registration. In the sense of trademarks, bad faith means that the applicant wants to get a mark without any intention of using it to affiliate with any goods and services, which blocks other people from using the mark. Although, this argument did not work in this case and the judge stated that there are some cases where the mark could be so offensive that it should “inevitably transgress honest business practices” thus, leading to bad faith.
This case study has been written by Deeksha Aggarwal during her internship with MikeLegal
- Swatch AG v Apple Inc, High Court 29 March 2021
- Iain Purvis QC, sitting as Deputy Judge of the High Court