The Swatch Group is one of the largest watch companies on the planet and have recently decided to take action against Apple over the trademark registration of the highly anticipated iWatch. After an online uproar from Apple enthusiasts, the Swatch Group had to remind them that they have in fact been using the term “iSwtch” for many years.
At present (May 2014) Apple is yet to announce such a product; however, when they do, the Swatch Group has prepared by ensuring that they have the legal means to defend the iSwatch name – which could admittedly be confusing.
How Trademarking Works
Trademarks generally operate on a “use it or lose it” basis; if a company doesn’t have a “purpose” for having the trademark, then they lose the right to it. Since Apple are yet to release an iWatch, they currently have no right to use the name. However, as a defender of other trademarks in a similar vein, they do have a right to defend against other names that could cause confusion over the brand. Swatch has used the iSwatch trademark in both 2012 and 2013. Because this demonstrates the previous usage, it could support their claim to defend it.
Swatch’s trademark is both a word and figurative term. One of the main elements of a potential case that would have to be settled is whether or not the names iWatch and iSwatch are confusingly similar in terms of a wrist-worn timepiece. Another element is whether they can claim by means of brand protection. What Apple, however, has on their side is that Swatch didn’t trademark the iSwatch brand in some countries till as late as 2013; while others were trademarked in 2008.
A Future Legal Battle
Apple and Swatch could engage in a legal battle to defend their honour from country to country; however, more likely, they will settle and come to some kind of global agreement. Without an agreement, it could take years until the battle resolves as countries have an 18-month leeway period to respond to a request; not included appeal deadlines. Some countries, such as Iceland, have already aired on the side of caution by refusing Swatch their trademark.
In short, Apple is renowned throughout the world for their “i-anything” titles, and as the company expands into different technology sectors, they are universally expected to use the title “i-product.” However, presently this is merely speculation and while Apple are expected to release a smart watch in the near future, they’re yet to move forward, so whatever happens with Swatch is yet to be seen.
According to Bloomberg, Swatches Chef Executive Officer Nick Hayek stated, “this is the normal procedure to protect your own brand name. We react like this for all other brand names that we have protected.” The company’s plans for action were first reported on Swiss new website Watson; however, only time will tell whether the potential legal battle is merely a formality or something that The Swatch Group will pursue in full swing in the near future.
Image courtesy of Switzerwatch.