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New York City wants to become more environmentally friendly, and they’ve come up with a logo to symbolize the campaign:

GreeNYC

They applied for a trademark, and the people who make iPods didn’t like that. Didn’t like that at all. In fact, they pretty much foamed at the mouth about it in their complaint.

The Real Problem

Let’s look at the two logos, side-by-side:

GreeNYC  GreeNYC

Outside of both being stylized apples, there is little resemblance between the two. In fact, if you wanted to cause fatalities in Apple’s legal firm, just tell them to go here and type in “Big Apple logo.” They’ll find lots and lots of apple logos, most of which resemble Apple’s logo more than New York City’s.

Why isn’t Apple suing all of them? They don’t and can’t because similiar trademarks are OK when other businesses aren’t in the same business as a trademark owner. If you go to the Big Apple Circus, you don’t go there expecting to buy a Mac, and if you go to a MacExpo, you don’t . . . well, maybe that’s not the best example. 🙂

A better example is NYC itself, and its environmental agencies. Who is going to try to plug into the visiting sanitation truck to download songs, or take their aluminum cans to an Apple Store for recycling?

But I don’t think that’s really the issue here.

Take a look at the two logos again, and decide “Which of these look cooler?”

That is New York City’s real crime: they’ve come up an apple logo that looks cooler than Apple’s, more Apple than Apple’s. In fact, Apple’s logo looks kind of tie-dyed, hippie-dippy in comparison.

Yes, Apple is more likely these days to use a variation of their logo, so let’s compare again:

GreeNYC  GreeNYC

Much closer in the coolness contest, but I still think NYC’s logo outscores Apple’s for simplicity, grace and style.

Maybe more to the point, do you have any problem imagining the NYC logo as the logo on some future Apple product, maybe a future eco-friendly Apple product?

I didn’t think so.

But if this NYC logo gets a trademark, who then would be guilty of trademark infringement if Apple came up with something similiar?

Maybe Apple seems a little less crazy now?

Unfortunately, for this objection to work, you have to swallow the notion that Apple somehow has a monopoly on any and all cool-looking apple symbols. Believe it or not, that seems to be the core of Apple’s legal argument against NYC:

“Applicant’s Marks (NYC) are very similiar to Opposer’s (Apple) APPLE Marks in appearance and commercial impression. Applicant’s Marks consist of an apple with a stylized detached and convex leaf element angled upward. Similiarly, Opposer’s APPLE marks famously evoke an
apple and Opposer’s APPLE Logo consists of an apple shaped logo with a stylized detached and convex leaf element angled upwards.”

I don’t think this is going to work.

Ed