Upsetting the Apple cart


What’s the first thing that comes into your mind when you hear the word Apple? The fruit? Or the worlds largest tech company (or maybe The Beatles record label now owned by the aforementioned tech company). For centuries people will have only known the fruit however nowadays most people will have more recently held an iPhone than an apple. Apple is now taking the next step in its brand protection strategy by applying to trademark the apple itself and not just the infamous once bitten logo that they’re famous for.

This current dispute is focused on Switzerland where the 111-year-old Fruit Union Suisse is taking objection to Apples efforts. The logo of the Fruit Union Suisse is simply an apple in the colours of the Swiss flag and they’re worried that they might have to change their logo if Apple are successful. The director of the Fruit Union Suisse, Jimmy Mariethoz said “Their objective here is really to own the rights to an actual apple … that should be free for everyone to use.”

Apple and the Swiss courts have history, in 2013 Apple tried to trademark “APPLE” but were refused as the Federal Institute of Intellectual Property (IGE) said that it belonged in the public domain. This view was upheld by The Federal Court. Apple appealed to the Swiss Federal Supreme Court on the basis that “APPLE” has no meaning in any Swiss language and people would only think of the tech company. Apple ultimately won the case and was able to register its mark in multiple classes in 2019.

In 2017 Apple tried to trademark a black and white image of a Granny Smith apple and in 2022 were granted a trademark in some but not all the classes that they applied for. The Swiss Institute of Intellectual Property (IPI) said that the “generic imagery of common items are considered to be in the public domain”. Apple has now decided to appeal this ruling in an attempt to expand the scope of its trademark. Apple has already had some success with its new Granny Smith mark which has been accepted in Armenia, Israel, Japan and Turkey.