The Victoria School of Business and Technology in Canada is being sued for the usage of their logo – which is apparently too similar to the logo used by technology giant Apple Inc. The school had received a cease and desist letter from Apple Inc. on August 26th from Apple’s lawyer Stephanie Vaccari – It states:
“Your business logo… reproduces, without authority, our client’s Apple design logo which it widely used. By doing so, you are infringing Apple’s rights, and further, falsely suggesting that Apple has authorized your activities.”
Christopher Boag, the school’s vice-president said he knows the school can’t win in a lengthy legal battle with Apple Inc., but he believes the school’s apple is a unique logo. Quoting a response from Dieter Gerhard, the schools president, in response to Stephanie’s letter:
“Our logo is unique and distinguishable in numerous aspects from the Apple logo including the acronym ‘VSBT’ being part of our logo. Are you suggesting that anyone using any variation of an apple for technology education is infringing on Apple’s trademark?”
The apple has long been an icon of education in many countries, and used in educational materials long before Apple Inc. came to be. This isn’t the first time there have been legal proceedings regarding the Apple logo either.
Apple Records, a record label company founded by The Beatles in 1968 as a division of Apple Corps Ltd had many trademark based legal run-ins with, then Apple Computer, now Apple Inc. In 1978 Apple Records filed a lawsuit against Apple Computer for trademark infringement. The suit was settled in 1981 for US$80,000 with agreed conditions by both parties that Apple Computer would not enter into the music business, and Apple Corps would not enter the computer business.
In 1986 Apple Computer added MIDI audio-recording capability to its computers with the 5503 sound chip from Ensoniq. In 1989 Apple Corps sued Apple Computer again, claiming violation of the 1981 settlement agreement. The outcome ended development of the Apple II line.
In 1991 another settlement involving a payment of around US$ 26.5 million to Apple Corps was reached. This time an Apple employee by the name of Jim Reekes had included a system sound called ‘Chimes’ to the Macintosh operating system. The name of the sound was then later changed to ‘sosumi’ which was apparently Japanese and meant nothing musical. However it can be read phonetically as “so sue me”. Apple computer agreed that it would not package, sell or distribute physical music materials.
In 2003 Apple Corps sued Apple Computer again for breach of contract for use of the Apple logo in the creation and operation of Apple Computer’s iTunes Music Store. On May 8, 2006 courts ruled in favor of Apple Computer.
So what does this all have to do with Apple Inc. bullying a school in Canada? Simple, Apple got a slap on the wrist many times for the exact same action that it is accusing VSBT of doing – trademark infringement. Then in May of 2006 a court ruled that no infringement had taken place. The end result is that it really has nothing to do with the usage of the logo itself – it has everything to do with the fact that Apple inc. has deeper pockets and more resources to get away with it. VSBT is also going to get a lot of attention because of this – now everyone knows who VSBT is.