Will the name “Steve Jobs” be on the next garment you buy?
We have all heard the name associated with the company Apple, but we have not yet seen the co-founder’s name as a trademarked brand of its own.
In Italy, though, “Steve Jobs” as a trademark, now legally belongs to an Italian fashion company. The company makes garments and accessories. While the brand does not produce any technology related to Apple, they have the legal right to trademark the name. Vincenzo and Giacomo Barbato were looking for a marketable name for their brand when they thought of Steve Jobs.
The fashion brand recently won a trademark battle against Apple. Apple was not only concerned with the name of the fashion brand, but also their logo. The logo resembled the bitten apple found on a variety of Apple’s technology. The Italian fashion company uses a bitten “J” with a leaf. The ruling stated, however, that a “J” cannot be bitten in the same way an apple can, thus the logo did not infringe on Apple’s trademark.
This is quite an embarrassing situation for Apple to be in, especially when we consider that Apple owns a total of 193 trademarks and the name of the founder is not included.
Essentially, the fashion brand may be profiting off of the established name that entrepreneur and CEO, Steve Jobs, has made with Apple. They may get initial attention since the name Steve Jobs will allow customers to “call to mind” Apple’s logo and its products. Will their impeccable product reputation also allow for this company to achieve success based on assumptions made by consumers? Unfortunately, a consumer simply being reminded of another unrelated brand is not a formal legal ground for denying a trademark.
So why didn’t Apple trademark the name first? Well, there has been a lot of debate about whether names should be trademarked to begin with. Even further, the brand was simply “Apple” and included no part of the founder’s name. So, a company may not think it is necessary to protect the name of their founder. Perhaps, no one has been audacious enough to use a name, such as Steve Jobs, as their own brand.
This case demonstrates how far one can go with trademarking brands and logos that are similar to others that may already exist. This Italian company took advantage of Apple’s oversight to make a profitable brand of its own. This is an intriguing debate, which we are sure will bring up many more intellectual property issues.