Technology IPThe world of technology is cut-throat. As it should
be if you consider the money involved, with the hype regarding
LinkedIn's listing being the latest example. On the trade mark
front, Microsoft is trying to cancel Apple's European trade
mark registrations for APP STORE. Why? The expression, says
Microsoft, is descriptive of stores offering apps (for the benefit
of the seriously old school, I should point out that 'apps'
stands for applications and not apprentices!) There is,
unsurprisingly, some history here - Apple has in the past claimed
that Microsoft's trade mark WINDOWS in generic.
The tech companies are all over the place with trade marks. When
Microsoft brought out BING to challenge GOOGLE, Steve Balmer, the
Microsoft big cheese who isn't Bill Gates, announced that he
hoped the word 'bing' would soon 'verb up'. By
which he meant that he wanted it to become a generic term for
searching. A bit like 'google' has some might argue. But
that would mean that the word 'bing' is no longer your
trade mark and that anyone can use it, surely you don't want
that Mr. Balmer, ventured some with the timidity with which one
questions billionaires? I don't care replied Balmer, in this
day and age it no longer matters if a trade mark become generic,
products have such a short lifespan that by the time the name
becomes generic we've all moved on.
Mark Zuckerberg is another geek with an interesting take on
trade marks. Zuckerberg is, of course, the man who created
FACEBOOK, the service used by the billion or so people who are
incapable of developing actual human relationships, but still have
a need to have people they can call friends. In the film The Social
Network, Zuckerberg is portrayed as a bit of a loser. But the film
also shows that he's certainly no goofy accidental billionaire.
Back in 2004 Zuckerberg registered FACE as a trade mark for chat
rooms. Yes 2004, when FACEBOOK was a fraction of what it is now - a
FACEPARAGRAPH perhaps, a FACESENTENCE maybe, possibly no more than
a FACEDOODLE. More recently Zuckerberg has applied to register BOOK
for social networks - fortunately this hasn't gone unnoticed
and the application's been opposed by two companies. Quite
right too: FACEBOOK is quite entitled to protect its rights –
and it has in the past taken issue with products called LAMEBOOK,
TEACHBOOK and PLACEBOOK – but it should do so on the basis of
the trade mark it actually uses, which is FACEBOOK.
This nonsense of registering constituent parts of a trade mark
should stop. Don't be surprised if Apple argues that APP is
really an abbreviation of Apple, and therefore something that it
can register. And that it can also register I or PHONE. Microsoft
will claim that it can register MICRO, and You Tube that it can
register YOU. The only company that won't be in a rush to
register an abbreviation is Twitter.
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It has always been the practice of the Industrial Property Institute of Mozambique to prohibit the refiling of trade marks that have been finally refused, which has posed a serious obstacle to trade mark applicants...
A recent Australian decision on keyword usage of a registered trade mark is in line with decisions in many other countries, including South Africa.
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