Apple 'Pod' Trademark Fight Expands To U.K. - InformationWeek
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Apple 'Pod' Trademark Fight Expands To U.K.

A British company is the latest to announce it has received a warning from Apple regarding its yet-to-be-released "securipod" wallet.

Apple Computer has taken its "pod" trademark fight across the pond.

The computer giant has been sending cease-and-desist letters to companies using the word "pod," stating that they are infringing on its trademark. A British company is the latest to announce it has received a warning from Apple regarding its yet-to-be-released "securipod" wallet.

Paul Richings and Marion Barling applied in March for a patent for a device and accompanying parts that would use biometric recognition and store cards, personal data, biometric software and scanners.

"On the final day for opposing our registration, Apple issued an objection," Barling said in an e-mail. "We are currently waiting for further details from the Patent Office as to Apple's reasons for objecting. Either way, it will be quite costly."

Barling said that once Securipod Ltd. receives more information about Apple's objections, she and Richings will have three months to figure out whether to defend their application or forfeit it. They said they will consider similar disputes that are ongoing in the United States.

Companies selling the TightPod, the Podvertiser the Profit-Pod are among several U.S. companies that have received cease-and-desist letters.

Apple representatives have not responded to requests for comment on the issue, but the company's lawyers explained their point of view in at least some of its cease-and-desist letters.

Apple has used its IPOD mark since at least as early as October 2001 and claims that the "Pod" 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 also argues that it has several Pod-related applications pending in the U.S and more than 100 jurisdictions worldwide. The company argues that the "Pod" suffix can be confusing to consumers, especially when attached to products related to computing and electronics. That could dilute Apple's brand, the company's lawyers wrote in one letter.

Other attorneys have argued that a host of "pod" products offered by small companies bear no resemblance to Apple's products and contain a suffix that should not be considered proprietary for one reason: It is a common English-language word.

Paul Levy, of the Public Citizen Litigation Group, said he believes that Apple's strategy could put a damper on free speech rights. He said that he has contacted a few of the small business owners and urged them to join in a battle to retain the word "Pod" in their products.

"One of the problems with trademark law today is that it's all too easy for a big company to throw big bucks around and prevent other people from using common terms in proper, and not confusing, ways," he said.

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