Apple Inc. has been sued by a small Dublin-based firm claiming the iPhone maker pays Google for promoting Apple Watch as iWatch. The Dublin-based firm owns the iWatch trademark in Europe. The hearing is scheduled for November 11.
Is Apple doing it intentionally?
Generally, customers tend to call the watch from Apple as iWatch (a name inspired by the iPhone), and punch same term in the search bar on Google. Apple pays Google to make sure that Apple Watch is the top search result when potential customers wrongly enter the term iWatch.
The complaint was filed by Probendi, an Irish software development studio, with a Milan court arguing that Apple is using the terms in its marketing, says a report from Bloomberg, citing court documents. The document reads that the iPhone maker is “systematically” using the term iWatch on Google search engine to dupe users on its website.
Giacomo Bonelli, a lawyer for Probendi said that both the firms facing allegations refused to comment. Daniele Di Salvo, co-founder of Probendi told Bloomberg that last year, the firm did warn Apple regarding the use of the term.
Probendi put a copyright on the iWatch name back in 2008, and its foresight made it difficult for Apple to go ahead and call its device by that name. Probendi was never a hardware maker and has still not put its Watch on the market. Last year, just after the Apple Watch was announced, the firm promised it was working on a similar device, but it has still not arrived on shelves.
Probendi makes communications software that is used by professional organizations in order to transfer sensitive data. The firm’s software is used by some Italian Police forces to transfer mugshots, according to an Irish Independent report on the firm’s copyright claims.
Salvo said that the firm is in process of designing a smartwatch that would cost less than the Apple’s one, and run on Google’s Android, and bear the name of iWatch. But, as of now, the project is “in standby,” said Di Salvo.
Probendi ordered an audit, which was led by Barzano & Zanardo, an expert in copyright disputes. The audit firm valued iWatch trademark to be worth €87 million ($97 million), says the report, citing sources familiar with the matter.
Apple, Google are used to such charges
This is not the first time when Google ads are under question. Over the past years, various companies such as American Airlines, Geico and Rosetta Stone have tried to take on the Internet firm over the trademark issues, but in vain most of the time. Google notes in its ad service that it analyzes trademark complaints on a case by case basis, and “may enforce certain restrictions.”
Even for Apple it is not a first trademark dispute case. A similar case was noticed in 2012, but that was related to the iPad. Back then Apple was ordered to pay $60m to settle a trademark case in China over the rights to use the name iPad.
Update 13:33 EST: Added details on the origins of the copyright case in 2014.