John Paczkowski

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Apple Challenges Woolworths Over Logo Similarities


“• It is a stylised ‘W’ for Woolworths with the addition of an abstract leaf symbol representing fresh food;
• It is reminiscent of one of the most famous Woolworths logos of the 1970s;
• It represents a person–as in ‘The Fresh Food People’ and the Woolworths focus on its customers.”

Woolworths announces its new logo.

Woolworths Supermarkets describes its new logo as “an abstract leaf symbol” intended to represent fresh food. But to Apple, the stylized “W” looks far too much like its own namesake fruit, which could be problematic should the supermarket chain someday decide to peddle its own brand of consumer electronics. And so Apple is petitioning IP Australia, the local agency that governs trademarks, to reject the Woolworths application for the mark.

It seems an overly litigious move, even for Apple (AAPL). As Hans Hulsbosch, the Woolworths logo designer dryly notes, “Based on this logic, they would have to take action against every fruitseller.”

That said, the Woolworths application is for a blanket trademark on a broad range of goods, including electronics, specifically “apparatus for recording, transmission or reproduction of sound or images…calculating machines, data processing equipment and computers…computer devices and computer peripheral devices…[and] computer hardware and software.”

While it might seem unlikely that the supermarket chain would ever manufacture devices, it did recently begin dabbling in cellphones, so it’s not entirely out of the question. Said a Woolworths spokesman: “While we can’t rule [computers, musical players, or other devices] out, we haven’t got any plans at the moment.”

This isn’t the first time Apple has challenged a trademark. Last year the company went after New York City’s GreeNYC campaign claiming its logo would create confusion in the marketplace. And in 2007, Apple settled a long-running trademark dispute with The Beatles’ parent company, Apple Corps.