Steve Jobs’ contributions to modern computing will be remembered for a long time, especially for his work with Apple Inc. Despite his tragic early death in 2011, Steve Jobs’ creations are still used around the world on a daily basis and he is surely a household name for many. Nonetheless, in the eyes of the law, ‘Steve Jobs’ is a different product in many different countries.
The country that has raised awareness of the name this week is Italy. A trademark for Steve Jobs is owned by a fashion start-up in the country and Apple is unable to change the outcome of the logo. The company is owned by brothers Vincenzo and Giacomo Barbato and it makes clothing and fashion accessories, nothing directly related to Apple’s core products. Nonetheless, the brothers have not tried to hide their association with the tech legend by focusing their logo around the Apple/Steve Jobs collaboration – their logo is a large J with a bit at the side and a leaf on top, immediately calls to mind Apple’s own logo.
It is an unfortunate situation that Apple never trademarked the founder’s name. Apple has an array of intellectual property rights for all of its products but, much to their now embarrassment, never thought to trademark a name.
“Calling to mind” is the official term for what the Barbato brothers have done, however, it is not a legal ground to invalidate the trademark, according to the court. Unlike an Apple, the letter J isn’t, by nature, edible. So the association between the two is superficial. Unfortunately for Apple, it might have focused too much on that aspect of the trademark rather than on the Steve Jobs name. Apple lost the appeal this week and the Fashion Start-Up will be allowed to continue using and owning the trademark rights, with a whole load of extra publicity coming their way thanks to the lawsuit.
It’s an odd defeat for Apple. You can be sure Cupertino will fight tooth and nail for it, if not in Italy then in other jurisdictions. And it better act swiftly, because the brothers plan on growing the Steve Jobs’, the company, business to include electronics, which would then more directly compete with Steve Jobs’, the person, actual products.