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You be the Judge: Apples to Apples

Apr 15, 2008

by Sarah Feingold

Etsy.com handmade and vintage goods

I’ll admit it: as Etsy’s in-house attorney, I love reading legal disputes and thinking about what important issues each side should stress.  I especially like to analyze pending copyright, trademark, and patent cases.  I daydream about what points I would argue if I were the lawyer for each side and then I put on my imaginary judge’s robe and make a decision.

Well, here’s your chance.  If you were the judge, what would you decide on this real-life on-going legal battle? (Remember, this issue hasn’t gone to court yet).

GreenNYC is New York City’s campaign for environmental sustainability of the air, land, and water.  The GreenNYC logo shows a sweeping letter “N” forming the shape of an apple with a stem and a leaf.  This logo can be found all around The Big Apple, including on bus shelters and hybrid gasoline-electric taxicabs.

Apple, Inc. is popular technology lifestyle brand that, among other things, designs and makes computer products and personal electronics (aren’t we all familiar with it?).  Apple’s logo is the shape of an apple with a simple leaf and a bite out of the right side.

NYC & Company applied for a registered trademark for the GreenNYC logo, but Apple filed a formal opposition on January 16, 2008.  Apple argues that GreenNYC’s logo is very similar to the famous Apple logo, in appearance and commercial impression.  Apple also claims that certain GreenNYC goods are identical, or highly related to goods and services Apple has offered.  Therefore, GreenNYC’s logo will likely cause dilution of Apple’s marks and consumer confusion.

According to a Wired.com article, the City believes that Apple’s arguments lacks merit and no customer is likely to be confused.

As I explained in my previous trademark article, U.S. trademark law is meant to protect consumers from being confused about where a product comes from.  So what do YOU think?  Is the GreenNYC logo too close to the Apple logo as to cause a risk of confusion in your mind?  In the comments below, you be the judge!

50 comments

  • sagittariusgallery

    sagittariusgallery said 9 years ago

    I'd rule in favor of GreenNYC. Apple owns that single distinction of the apple, the way it is represented. But the one GreenNYC has is completely different in form. I personally would not confuse the two. Furthermore, I don't believe the two are close enough for this case to rule in favor of Apple. So sick of the sue happy. Just because the Apple company is represented by that apple doesn't mean they own *all* apples. If Apple were to win this one where would they go next? Seems pretty cut and dry to me.

  • redflannelelephant

    redflannelelephant said 9 years ago

    I don't think Apple have a valid case - their logo is reminiscent of the Beatles Apple logo anyway. They shouldn't be able to copyright the whole spectrum of apple logos/images - and New York was known as the Big Apple years before Macs were invented - what's to be confused about? The NY logo is a swirling decorative apple. The Mac logo is a graphic apple with a bite taken out. (BTW, will Apple start suing anyone painting biblical scenes from the Garden of Eden, I believe there was a pretty major apple biting thing going on there too).

  • sixhours

    sixhours said 9 years ago

    They're both apples, sure, but they don't look at all alike to me. I'd rule in favor of GreenNYC. *waits for the obligatory "how do you like dem apples!" joke*

  • TrackandFieldDesigns

    TrackandFieldDesigns said 9 years ago

    They are similar - I guess - being as they are both APPLES!!!

  • SteppingStones

    SteppingStones said 9 years ago

    ASIDE from being apples, I see no similarities! Apple needs to learn to share! Someone once tried to stop me from using the term GENUINE with my seaglass! What am I supposed to call it FAKE? NYC wins with me, great article Sarah!

  • dorkdesigns

    dorkdesigns said 9 years ago

    NYC would win if I were the judge. They don't look anything alike.

  • dougsolomon

    dougsolomon said 9 years ago

    Like most folks, I'm very familar with Apple's logo. I didn't even think of Apple until I scrolled down the page. Case dismissed!

  • NormalIsBoring

    NormalIsBoring said 9 years ago

    Apple doesn't even use green as their main color for the logo! What do they have to be worried about anyways? People thinking that they got a computer from Apple when really it runs on vegtable oil and come from Green NYC?? I rule in favor of Green NYC.

  • ClaudiaLord

    ClaudiaLord said 9 years ago

    I don't think its that similar except for maybe the leaf. But GreenNYC's has a stem which Apple's doesn't. Plus I agree that NYC has used an apple in their logos and slogans for a long time. I would side with GreenNYC.

  • Onanoa

    Onanoa said 9 years ago

    I agree... it's an apple. You can't copyright nature, only a graphic interpretation of it and these are two different interpretations. If you asked a few artists to draw apples, they'd probably end-up with similar shapes...duh. Besides I believe there are enough degrees of separation for GreenNYC to win.

  • monkeypowered

    monkeypowered said 9 years ago

    Nope. Not similar. GreenNYC all the way! C'mon Apple,play nice. You're not even using the green and it's not like GreenNYC is another computer co.

  • skrhoadesdesign

    skrhoadesdesign said 9 years ago

    I don't think there is any merit to this. You can't copy an apple, or a tree, or any item that is standard. You also can't copyright a color. Beyond the color and the apple shape, the two images are completely different, with different meanings, and different textures. Apple just wants the monopoly on everything (not that they aren't wonderful.)

  • anda Admin

    anda said 9 years ago

    Okay, I want to try to pretend to be Apple's lawyer. I would say that GreenNYC's single apple is iconically similar enough, and combined with the *scope* of the GreenNYC project, would be a real threat to Apple's brand. Apple's products are defined/recognized by the single apple logo, and Apple should protect that icon from being used too widely. Despite the regular and familiar presence of apples in the world, as a LOGO the "single, simplified apple" becomes meaningless if it gets used by everyone, and as a LOGO symbolizes Apple Inc to most people right now. Okay, thats my other side argument. :)

  • Ninnerfish

    Ninnerfish said 9 years ago

    Are you kidding?! Those look IDENTICAL! Who does GreenNYC think they are? Just kidding. I almost did it with a straight face.

  • JewelsofLuxury

    JewelsofLuxury said 9 years ago

    I can definitely see a distinction between the two. Plus apple uses every color known to man for their logo, so how do you create a logo to look like an apple without infringing on theirs? Do they just own every apple design then??

  • cozycottagecreations

    cozycottagecreations said 9 years ago

    Hmmm....I hope no one ever comes to my shop looking to buy a computer. Seriously - I took a look at GreenNYC's apple and didn't even think of Apple Computer until I scrolled down a bit further. Obviously, there's more than one take on how to create an apple.

  • MissKnits

    MissKnits said 9 years ago

    they are not similar at all! if they think the general public as a whole would truly be confused by this, then they really do think we are just a bunch of idiots! lol yes they are green apples, but very very different and distinct in style. i saw APPLE has no true grounds for this.

  • eclipse

    eclipse said 9 years ago

    This seems groundless to me because of two main points: 1. the logos are not that similar, other than they are both apples. Apples were not invented by Apple corporation, they grow on trees. There was Apple records in the 60's, this was their logo http://www.zibs.com/blog/archives/Applecorps.jpg So therefore, no one has exclusive rights to use a naturally occurring fruit in their logo. 2. I can't imagine what products these 2 companies would have that are even similar. greenyc doesn't make computers or small electronics. If they made computers or mp3 players or phones, then I might see *some* confusion by consumers but right now I don't see how anyone would be confused.

  • BlackStarBeads

    BlackStarBeads said 9 years ago

    I did NOT think of Apple Inc when I looked at the GreenNYC Apple. I love the GreenNYC logo and hope they get to keep it.

  • thegardenofbeadin

    thegardenofbeadin said 9 years ago

    I dont think they are similar at all. There is no consumer confusion here. GREEN NYC you have my support

  • stonesoupsupplies

    stonesoupsupplies said 9 years ago

    Interesting issue. I would imagine that Anda's point is one of Apple's primary arguments, but I don't really see this campaign diluting the existing Apple logo. Apple's got a pretty strong brand ID going. Plus, I think the other one looks more like a peach than an apple. :)

  • MagpieCollections

    MagpieCollections said 9 years ago

    At this rate, will Apple come and say dont sell "Apples", it'll confuse the consumers into thinking, local markets sell computers..lol..!! Pardon me,I couldnt help myself from posting that stupid joke of mine..!!

  • eggmanstudios

    eggmanstudios said 9 years ago

    This reeks of the whole Apple Corps (Apple Records) vs. Apple Computer (Apple Inc) debacle. Sigh. Apple, I love you, but dang. Grow up a little.

  • DaisyChains

    DaisyChains said 9 years ago

    Not the same, totally different.

  • puffluna

    puffluna said 9 years ago

    I agree with the majority. GreenNYC's logo looks different enough... but, that being said... we know how important "branding" is so I can sort of see Apple's perspective. I can't see them winning though. Like other's have said, the apple has been used before. In fact... it kind of represents the original sin, doesn't it?

  • excely

    excely said 9 years ago

    I don't see where they are competing or there is overlap that could cause consumer confusion? (Not that I think there would really be consumer confusion anyway)

  • AliciaWalsh

    AliciaWalsh said 9 years ago

    OK. Both are apples. Both are green. Both have a leaf. How would you advertise a granny smith apple that you wanted to sell in your organic farm stand with out consumers being "confused" that they were buying an organic computer? I love the GreenNYC logo. I vote in favor of The GreenNYC BIG Apple!

  • terrain

    terrain said 9 years ago

    I think Apple's suit has no merit. You can easily list the distinct differences between the two logos. GreenNYC's is different because: a) it is not a solid colour, it is linework b) it is shaped differently c) it has a stem d) it is a different shade of green e) it does not have a bite out of it If the courts rule in Apple's favour it could set a dangerous precedent. There are many companies that have been using apples in their logos for many years. Would Apple then own the rights to *any* graphic image of an apple? It's a slippery slope and I hope the courts recognize that.

  • shandke

    shandke said 9 years ago

    They are completely different, and the Big Apple was in existence long before Apple, Inc was ever a valid company.

  • OrigamiCentral

    OrigamiCentral said 9 years ago

    The logos are totally different. I would never confuse them for each other.

  • ArtistryInFocus

    ArtistryInFocus said 9 years ago

    How ridiculous. Apple is evil. Green New York is a great idea and should be able to keep this unique logo. I completely agree with Terrain and so many others above.

  • utterlypersonal

    utterlypersonal said 9 years ago

    Uh.......yah those are not the same. Any idiot knows the apple computer logo by now. No confusion there!

  • Myracuulous

    Myracuulous said 9 years ago

    I’d really have to have more information to judge a case like this. It’s true that Apple can’t lay claim to all apple designs, but if someone were to try and make, say, an MP3 player brand with a stylized apple design as its logo, even if it looked quite different from the Apple logo, it would be easy for customers to get confused. GreenNYC isn’t making MP3 players, but I would want to see exactly which “certain GreenNYC goods are identical, or highly related to goods and services Apple has offered” before condemning this as Apple being litigious. Maybe, for example, people are honestly thinking that the reusable green grocery bags that GreenNYC is producing have something to do with Apple, since the GreenNYC is also seen in association with technology items like hybrid cars. The Wired.com article says that they are going to do consumer studies to see if people are actually getting confused, I think the results of those should be the deciding factor.

  • esdesigns

    esdesigns said 9 years ago

    looks different enough to me.

  • teaforbini

    teaforbini said 9 years ago

    In the spirit of playing Devil's advocate, I'd like to say that Apple does have *some* merit to their claim. I'm a law student studying Intellectual Property law (including copyright, patents etc). I am in Australia and I acknowledge the laws between our countries are fairly different and also I don't get to study trademarks until next semester, but I'll chime in with my 2 cents. A mark in Australia needs to be substantially identical or deceptively similar to a mark that has acquired a reputation. I think we all agree GreenNYC's logo isn't "substantially identical" but I'd say that Apple could well establish it is at least "deceptively similar". It is sufficient if using the mark results in a number of persons having cause to wonder whether the two products may have come from the same source (now, I have no idea what type of company GreenNYC is, but still, I think there's scope for argument here). I myself could envisage consumers assuming the GreenNYC logo is some new direction Apple is taking to keep up with trends.

  • curlyfrysc

    curlyfrysc said 9 years ago

    I use a Mac but Apple needs to go bite themselves! No one will be confused over something that looks nothing like the other.

  • Chillionaire Admin

    Chillionaire said 9 years ago

    Sarah! I love this ^-^ As much as I dig Apple, I'm with Green NYC on this one...however, I like teaforbini's argument

  • Chillionaire Admin

    Chillionaire said 9 years ago

    don't forget to tell us how it turns out!

  • dragonhouseofyuen

    dragonhouseofyuen said 9 years ago

    In favour of Green NYC. As an artist it is clearly visible that the hollow apple with the curvy lines and NO missing section is not from Apple. I would not be confused, however I would be consulting with the design team for producing a green nectarine! instead of an apple for NYC.

  • dragonhouseofyuen

    dragonhouseofyuen said 9 years ago

    (I love nectarines!)

  • berrybluecreations

    berrybluecreations said 9 years ago

    I'm also in support of Green NYC, they are the same fruit, but the graphics aren't even close to being similar except for that.

  • vozclothingandart

    vozclothingandart said 9 years ago

    Oh no, I'm confused- they look the same. Just playing, they are obviously different so I support Green NYC.

  • offthehookstudios

    offthehookstudios said 9 years ago

    Even if I were 3 years old and playing the Sesame Street game- "One of these things is not like the other…" I would STILL not think they were the same logo, I would STILL not get confused. I love Apple, I'm using a Mac right now but come ON!!! let's get real shall we?

  • FireHazardBeads

    FireHazardBeads said 9 years ago

    and the next step would be to forbit all green apples in fruit stores and supermarkets why people could think that the company apple lost them all over the tables? do they realy think that people are all so stupid that we would see all apples like being company apple? company apple would lose if i where the judge

  • SomsStudio

    SomsStudio said 9 years ago

    I don't see how GreeNYC company profile of environmental/ green initiatives has anything to do with Apple's computers. So "Certain GreenNYC goods are identical, or highly related to goods and services Apple has offered" argument is pointless. As far as the actual logos go, they are different enough for the general public not to be confused. I have seen plenty of actual copy cats....I remember "Quality" ice creams - a popular Indian brand, being copied as "Kwality" or "Quawlity" Ice creams. Or the "Cosmopolitan" magazine vs "Complete Woman"....Now these I can understand! Apple fighting with GreeNYC does not make sense. GreeNYC: you have my vote!

  • BabyBellatrix

    BabyBellatrix said 9 years ago

    I thought the GreenNYC logo was nice, felt crisp, clean, and simple, I didn't get *apple* from it at all since to me *apple* was never crisp, clean, and simple, lol, but of course I'm someone who's first experience with a computer involved starting and booting it (literally) from a cassette tape in the 5th grade, rofl. So what if the Green NYC is a green apple and they sell some similar products :::shrug::: what's *apple* going to do next start asking for money from every single person that draws, paints, or takes a picture of an apple? This is about as ridiculous as that tidbit I heard a few years ago about O.J. Simpson wanting to own O.J. :::snort:::

  • brianslittlegirl

    brianslittlegirl said 8 years ago

    uuuuuuuuum... lol, yeah, I don't really see a case their. People are just suit-crazy. They are apples... they are green... but they are very dissimilar. Maybe if their products actually are similar I could see it, but if not, then what on earth is the issue? Sounds like apple needs to get a life.

  • seb8351

    seb8351 said 8 years ago

    I have a feeling that NYC was "the big apple" before Apple, inc. existed. Maybe NY has a case against Apple?

  • SudsMuffin

    SudsMuffin said 8 years ago

    Wow I was rooting for Green NYC until I saw this image: http://www.omni-advertising.com/art/dan/ALL_NYC.jpg Granted the Green NY logo is flipped on it but it certainly appears to have a very similar silhouette, like it had been traced and then redesigned from the original shape. Very interesting.

  • handloomin

    Manju G from JaipurHandloom said 3 years ago

    Very NYC feel these give.

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