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8/16/2006
07:09 PM
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Apple In 'Pod' Fight

Apple joins Google in seeking to prevent the "genericization" of the name of a flagship product.

What's in a Pod? Well, that depends on who's selling it, and Apple is trying to make sure companies that use the word aren't infringing on the company's trademark.

The company is sending letters to businesses that use the Pod mark in their names and products. Apple representatives declined to comment and their trademark attorney did not return calls. It is unclear how many of the 288 trademark applicants have received "cease and desist" letters for using the word 'Pod'.

Terry Wilson, a New Jersey woman selling TightPods, is one of them. She said she feels bad that company she relies on is getting bad press for asking her to stop using the word in the fabric slip-on coverings she makes for electronic devices.

"MacIntosh is a product that is very central to my business, the way I run my business, everything I do," the Web designer said in an interview Wednesday. "It permeates my lifestyle."

In fact, her dog eats out of a dish with the Apple logo on it, she said.

When Wilson's Apple PowerBook latch stopped working, she sought a solution in her dresser drawer. An old pair of '80s spandex leggings did the trick, and a business was born. She now sells unique sleeve-like covers for all sorts of portable electronic devices, including cell phones and mp3 players.

"I make small ones for mice and cords, things you would associate with a laptop," she said.

So, when she applied for her trademark, Wilson included mp3 players among more than the 25 possible uses she listed. Just days before the deadline to object to the application, Apple sent Wilson a letter saying that the company would seek an extension while trying to resolve the matter privately.

"Apple has used its IPOD mark since at least as early as October 2001," a lawyer for the company wrote. "Since that time, the IPOD mark indicates to consumers that portable electronic devices and related goods and services bearing those and similar marks originate from or are sponsored by Apple."

The company 's legal notice states that it has several applications pending in the United States for the mark and has filed similar applications in more than one hundred other jurisdictions worldwide. Apple said it has obtained registrations covering more than 50 international jurisdictions, including Canada, Mexico, China, Japan, and Europe, where it owns a registration for "Pod." It stated that there is a "confusing similarity" between Apple's iPod and Pod marks and the TightPod mark because of the Pod suffix and because the products are related. Apple's lawyer stated that the use of the sleeves for mp3 players could cause confusion among consumers and "dilute Apple's famous iPod mark."

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