UNITED STATES: In a surprising move, tech giant Apple is reportedly seeking to obtain intellectual property (IP) rights over the depiction of the fruit that shares its name. The company’s relentless pursuit has raised concerns among fruit farmer organizations, particularly in Switzerland, where a fruit farmer’s organization called Fruit Union Suisse has expressed worry about the potential consequences.
The organization, representing fruit farmers across Switzerland, believes that the right to depict an apple should be universally accessible and not owned by a single company. Fruit Union Suisse Director, Jimmy Mariethoz, voiced his concerns, stating that Apple’s objective seems to be claiming ownership over an actual apple, a notion that contradicts the belief that the symbol of an apple should be free for all to use.
The World Intellectual Property Organisation has data showing that Apple has submitted identical requests to IP authorities in many other nations. Despite some authorities, including those in Japan, Turkey, Israel, and Armenia, reluctantly accepting Apple’s requests, the news has stirred discussions on the dynamics of the flourishing global IP rights industry.
In 2017, Apple submitted an application to the Swiss Institute of Intellectual Property (IPI) seeking IP rights for a realistic, black-and-white depiction of the Granny Smith apple variety, a popular green apple. The application covered an extensive range of potential uses, primarily in the realm of electronic, digital, and audiovisual consumer goods and hardware.
Last year, the IPI partially granted Apple’s request, allowing the company to secure rights related to only some of the goods specified in their application. However, Apple was not satisfied with this decision and subsequently filed an appeal to obtain broader rights.
The Fruit Union Suisse remains concerned about the lack of clarity regarding the specific uses of the apple shape that Apple intends to protect. Their worry stems from the potential restrictions that could be imposed on any visual representation of an apple, especially those associated with new technologies, media, or audiovisual content. Such limitations could have far-reaching implications for the fruit industry.
Apple, thus far, has not provided any official comment on the reports regarding its attempts to secure IP rights over the depiction of the apple fruit.
As Apple continues its quest for intellectual property rights over a fruit as generic as an apple, it highlights the competitive nature of the global IP rights industry. The case prompts reflection on whether companies should obsessively vie for trademarks they may not truly require, especially when it concerns widely recognized symbols like an apple.
Only time will tell how Apple’s pursuit will unfold and whether fruit farmer organizations and other stakeholders will be successful in preserving the notion that the depiction of an apple should remain free for all to use.