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Apple is forcing a 111-year old fruit company to change its logo in a weird trademark battle

The Apple logo

Apple has always been aggressive when it comes to its trademarks and Intellectual Property (IP). However, it looks like the company may have taken it a bit too far this time around.

According to a report published by Wired, Apple has filed lawsuit which, if won, will force a 111-year old Swiss fruit company to give up on their logo. Fruit Union Suisse, a company established more than a century ago has represented itself with a red apple logo along with a white cross that denotes the Swiss national flag. However, if they lose the case filed against them, Fruit Union Suisse will be forced to change their logo.

Logo of Swiss apple producer Fruit Union Suisse

Fruit Union Suisse director Jimmy Mariéthoz told Wired:

"We have a hard time understanding this, because it’s not like they’re trying to protect their bitten apple. Their objective here is really to own the rights to an actual apple, which, for us, is something that is really almost universal … that should be free for everyone to use.

We’re concerned that any visual representation of an apple—so anything that’s audiovisual or linked to new technologies or to media—could be potentially impacted. That would be a very, very big restriction for us. Theoretically, we could be entering slippery territory everytime we advertise with an apple"

This is not the first time that Apple has attempted to pull such a stunt. According to the Swiss Institute of Intellectual Property (IPI), Apple filed an application for a black and white illustration of a Granny Smith apple. The request was partially approved by the Swiss authorities last year, who noted that generic images like that of an apple are public domain. Apple has, however, filed an appeal against the decision in April 2023. Furthermore, as per the World Intellectual Property Organization’s records, Apple has filed similar trademark requests in other countries like Japan, Turkey, Israel, and Armenia.

Apple has been aggressive in Switzerland in the past and the company has precedent to support its current quest. Back in 2010, Apple made a small Swiss grocers’ cooperative sign an out of court agreement declaring it would never add a bite mark to their apple logo. However, not every decision has gone in the company's favor. In 2012, Apple was forced to pay around $20 million to the Swiss Federal Railway after it proved that Apple had copied the design of the Swiss railway clock.

There has been an increase in tech companies trying to trademark common words and images that should ideally be public domain and free to use. However, Apple has been in an another league when it comes to filing trademarks. According to a report by the Tech Transparency Project, Apple has filed more trademarks than Microsoft, Facebook, Amazon, and Google combined. However, that does not make Apple the sole guilty party as others have trademarked generic terms like Windows, Nest and Prime.

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