Steve Jobs – an icon, a pair of jeans or an android phone?

 In EUIPO, European Intellectual Property Office, EUTM, Trademark, Trademark law

Italian brothers Vincenzo and Giacomo Barbato just won a legal battle against Apple over the trademark STEVE JOBS. The dispute started in 2012 when the brothers filed their first application for a figurative mark consisting of the text STEVE JOBS and a customized lower-case J. The J is topped by a leaf and a chunk is missing on the side, like someone has taken a bite of it, very much like Apple’s logo.

Apple opposed the Barbato brothers’ application, claiming that the mark is highly similar to Apple’s marks, and because the goods and services offered are identical and/or similar, there is a likelihood of confusion.

The late Steve Jobs is an icon in many ways, most known for being one of the co-founders of Apple. While Apple holds the rights to countless trademarks, it has not registered STEVE JOBS. Maybe it did not expect that other actors would be bold enough to do it. However, the Barbato brothers were not first, there are several STEVE JOBS marks registered in various classes and countries.

The brothers are producing STEVE JOBS branded products such as jeans, t-shirts and bags, but they have said that the brand was created for electronics and that is what they are aiming for. Altogether, the brothers have successfully registered five marks. Two of them only with the text STEVE JOBS and three including the J logo, the latter which Apple opposed against.

The European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO), found that unlike an apple, the letter J is not edible, meaning that the missing chunk is not a bite. Therefore, the mark cannot be considered as similar to the famous Apple logo and the opposition was declined.

An interesting question is why Apple did not oppose the plain STEVE JOBS marks, where it may have been easier to claim likelihood of confusion and association.

The Barbato brothers took a significant risk when naming their brand STEVE JOBS, considering the possible financial loss should they have lost against the giant tech company. Registering a trademark is not as easy as it might seem, as regulations differ between different jurisdictions. A trademark registration increases the value of your brand while your company is growing, which is why it is important to build it on a solid foundation. If you need help to make sure that your brand is protected, Otmore can guide you through all the steps. Contact us and we’ll tell you more about our proactive strategies.

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