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Three examples of trademark infringement

If you hold a trademark and are committed to protecting it, you may find value in learning about past instances of trademark infringement and how the involved parties fared. Here are three times in the recent past trademark disputes made the news.

A tale of two Apples

Many people may think that Apple Corps is the company that brought iTunes to their smartphones, but this is not the case. This apple-named company was founded by none other than The Beatles eight years before Steve Jobs founded the more famous Apple Inc.

When The Beatles first sued Jobs for trademark infringement, Jobs was able to secure a cash settlement by promising never to enter the music business. Enter iTunes in 2003, arguably very much a part of the music business. The Beatles sued Jobs again but a judge ruled in favor of the computer company. Eventually, after continued legal battles, the two parties reached an agreement in which Apple Inc. purchased trademark rights from Apple Corps and agreed to lease certain permissions back to the music company upon request.

No ordinary heros

What do you call a brave person with supernatural abilities who fights evil? If you answered superhero, you are right, but you may not be able to use that term commercially without running into legal trouble. Both Marvel and D.C. Comics have claimed trademark status over variations of the word. Critics argue that the word is too generic to warrant trademark protection, but both companies remain vigilant in their protection of the mark.

Catching more flies

When an author released a book with a cover image resembling the Jack Daniels trademark, the whisky distillery did not respond with aggressive litigation, but rather a very gently worded and downright friendly letter that made waves on the internet. This tempered response may serve as a lesson for large corporations facing similar infringement issues. The cordial cease-and-desist letter brought positive publicity to the brand while nevertheless drawing a clear line in the sand over what types of use the company would allow.

If you own a trademark and have questions over how to protect it, consult with an intellectual property attorney who routinely handles these complex cases.