The success of Apple’s products has spawned many imitators worldwide. Not too long ago, an entire counterfeit Apple store was identified in China. Apple has also fought several large patent infringement suits with competitors like Samsung over whether Samsung ripped off some of Apple’s exclusive technology. With the enormous popularity of Apple’s brand, this kind of copying is inevitable. But in a surprising trademark registration twist, the copycat role may very well be reversed for Apple in Brazil.
IGB Eletrônica SA, a Brazilian electronics maker popularly known by its brand name Gradiente, recently released its newest product, the IPHONE Neo One. Natural suspicion might cause one to suspect that Gradiente is attempting to play off of Apple’s brand and cachet. Further examination however, reveals that Gradiente submitted a trademark registration application for the mark IPhone with the Brazilian trademark office in the year 2000, nearly seven years before Apple released their first iPhone in June 2006. Talk about some serious premonition. As Apple now looks to expand into the Brazilian market, they face a huge trademark roadblock.
Apple actually had its trademark attorneys submit a trademark registration application for the iPhone mark in Brazil in 2006, but trademark privileges are no respecter of persons. It’s first-come, first serve, regardless of how big or successful the company may be. Apple was second in line to Gradiente, leaving Apple out of luck in Brazil unless they are able to negotiate a deal with Gradiente. Apple ran into a similar issue in China where a Chinese company held the trademark registration rights for the term iPad. Apple was able to purchase the trademark rights from the firm for $60 million, a relative drop in the bucket considering the amount of money Apple stands to make off its products in China, but a significant expense nonetheless. Time will tell whether Apple and its trademark attorneys are able to negotiate for the iPhone trademark rights in Brazil.
This situation serves to illustrate the value of registering a trademark early on to protect your branding and trademark rights. Apple was willing to pay $60 million just to have the right to market their tablet PC as the iPad in China. They could have saved the $60 million and just called their device something else, but the term iPad is universally recognizable. There is real value in that. Undoubtedly, Apple will go to great lengths to capture that same value in Brazil with the iPhone brand.
As Apple is keenly aware, the stakes with regards to a trademark registration can be great. This is why it is so important to have an experienced trademark attorney who can help you protect what may be one of your most valuable business assets. If you are considering trademark registration, please explore our website for help with a trademark search or trademark application.