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Apples or Apple
The tech giant Apple is attempting to secure intellectual property rights over depictions of apples, the fruit, in Switzerland. This move has alarmed the Fruit Union Suisse, Switzerland's oldest and largest fruit farmer’s organization, which has used a red apple with a white cross as its logo for most of its 111-year history. Apple's efforts to trademark a realistic, black-and-white depiction of a Granny Smith apple began in 2017, and though the Swiss Institute of Intellectual Property (IPI) partially granted their request, Apple has launched an appeal for the rejected portions.
This legal action is just one of Apple's many global trademark quests, which have seen varying degrees of success in countries such as Japan, Turkey, Israel, and Armenia. The Fruit Union fears that Apple's broad trademark protection could limit their use of apple imagery in advertising and other applications. In the past, Apple has pursued various entities over trademark disputes, including a meal-prepping app with a pear logo, a singer-songwriter named Frankie Pineapple, and a German cycling route, among others.
Apple's aggressive trademark strategy hasn't always been successful, as demonstrated by the $21 million settlement they had to pay to Swiss Federal Railways for copying the Swiss railway clock design. Also, an existing "apple" trademark in Switzerland, obtained by a watchmaker in the 1980s, forced Apple to delay the launch of its Apple Watch in the country.
Apple's bid for a black-and-white apple image might provide the broadest protection over the apple shape, allowing the company to contest depictions in various colors. However, in Switzerland, if an entity can prove prior use of a disputed sign, they have protection in a potential trademark dispute. This might make it difficult for Apple to enforce its trademark on organizations that have been using the apple symbol for decades. Still, the threat of costly litigation from a large company like Apple can intimidate and deter smaller businesses from lawful activities.