Monday, May 25, 2009

TWiT vs Twitter, and Apple vs Apple? Leo Laporte may be studying computer history

The Inquisitr's Steven Hodson has noted that Twitter's potential move toward a television reality show may have some unintended consequences:

Now as inane and stupid as I might personally find this whole idea of Twitter crossing over into an equally stupid and mind-numbing reality TV format there may actually be a legal battle brewing if they actually try to make the jump.

The reason I say that is Leo Laporte, the man behind TWiT (This Week in Technology), is asking folks on Friendfeed if this is the point where Twitter finally crosses the boundary into his trademarked area as far as naming is concerned....

That FriendFeed thread is here.

And my contribution to the thread was as follows:

If you haven't done so already, explore the Apple case, both the legal and business issues that Apple Corps encountered. And if you DON'T defend your trademark, what's Plan B? Remember that Twitter (or its future owners) may someday sue YOU.

I was not the first one to mention Apple vs Apple in the thread, primarily because the parallels are so clear. So perhaps it's worthwhile to revisit that case - or, actually, cases. This thing dragged on for a quarter far. Low End Mac has a good summary of the issues, which are divided into three rounds. Here's an excerpt from Round 1:

In 1978, Apple Corps sued Apple Computer for trademark violation. The case went to court (Apple Computer probably looked like a pushover), and the two parties settled in November 1981 with the understanding that Apple would never enter the music industry.

Plus, Apple Corps got a whopping $80,000 - that's $20,000 per Beatle (or, in one case, Beatle widow).

Round 2:

[A new] suit cited the [Mac] Plus, Mac SE, Mac II, Apple IIgs, the Apple CD-SC CD-ROM drive, and Apple's MIDI interface for the IIgs and the Mac. All machines were capable of music playback and creation (except for the Apple CD-SC) and seemed to infract on the original contract. The suit again went to court, and the two parties reached a settlement on October 9, 1991.

Round 3:

In 2000, Apple hired Tony Fadell to market a MP3 player and the music store concept he had created after leaving Phillips. The iPod and iTunes Music Store were released in 2001 and 2002 respectively....

In the eyes of Apple Corps the iTunes Music Store was a clear violation of the 1991 settlement. In September 2003 (25 years after Apple Corps' first suit) Apple Corps sued Apple Computer for breach of contract simultaneously in the US and the UK. Settlement talks fell through after Apple Computer offered Apple Corps $1 million for the right to use the Apple name in the music industry.

The outcome of this case, decided several years later?

The judge found in Apple Computer's favor, since the company was not marketing music, merely delivering it to customers through its network. Apple Corps was required to pay Apple Computer for its legal fees (estimated at £2m) - and Apple Corps promised to appeal the decision.

Apple Computer ultimately paid Apple Corps $26.8 million for the right to use the Apple name in computers and music distribution.

Read the whole story here. The result of all this tussling? We'll see when Round 4 appears.
blog comments powered by Disqus