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While the long-sought agreement between Apple and Apple Corps. in 2007
put to bed the computer manufacturer's longest legal dispute over
trademark, the computer company hasn't avoided other fights. In that
former case, the settlement could be seen as a gambit to woo Apple
Corps.' most famous associates, The Beatles, over to the iTunes store.
In a few other scraps, Apple has played the heavy, notably against a
Canadian technology school who have vowed to fight on.
In this most recent instance, Australian retail giant Woolworths, in a rebranding of themselves as "the fresh food people" have created a logo that arguably could look like an apple peeling. Clare Buchanan of Woolworths' states "We absolutely say it is a stylised 'W' that can be any kind of fresh produce. Some people say it looks like a lettuce, some people say it can be a pumpkin."
The logo, almost like an optical illusion, could appear to resemble
either party's claims, though what has Apple's lawyers making calls
isn't so much just the logo's sorta-kinda apple-ish appeal. Rather,
when Woolworths' applied for trademark protection, they opted for a
blanket trademark, meaning the logo could be applied to any kind of
product from fresh fruit to technology.
"While we can't rule anything out, we haven't got any plans at the moment," a Woolworths' spokesperson told reporters. While the idea of Woolworths branded MP3 players would court too much notice, Apple is also noting that as they are expanding their retail store presence worldwide, the logo's similarity might lead to confusion in consumers' minds as to the brands on display.
Apple has taken their challenge to IP Australia, the federal agency governing the use and protection of corporate trademarks. Cupertino just may have a historical precedent to argue with their claims, as the Woolworths chain, while directly taking its name from the American five-and-dime F.W. Woolworth Company is not in fact associated with that company. It seems borrowing branding from American corporations is not entirely foreign to the Australian company.