Apple, the California-based tech company, is attempting to win IP rights over images or depictions of actual apples, the fruit that comes in a variety of colors and types, as reported this week by Wired.
While Apple’s attempts to gain IP rights over apples go back several years (and were partially successful last year), the legal scuffle garnered attention recently as Apple is locked in a legal battle with a fruit farmer organization in Switzerland, called Fruit Union Suisse, which itself is more than a century old and uses a logo of a red apple with a white cross—a sort of mashup of an apple and the Swiss national flag.
Potentially, Fruit Union Suisse may be forced to stop using its logo, which has the group understandably upset. As Fruit Union Suisse director Jimmy Mariéthoz told Wired, “Their objective here is really to own the rights to an actual apple, which, for us, is something that is really almost universal…that should be free for everyone to use.”
Fast Company has reached out to Apple, the tech company, for comment.
At the core of the issue is a question of whether a company can or should be able to trademark or otherwise own the rights to an image of a mundane, common object. If Apple can trademark the image of an apple, for instance, what’s to stop MoonPie from trying to trademark the moon? As it stands, we’ll have to see.
It’s worth noting, too, that Apple has likewise attempted the same maneuver in many other countries, and has also pursued legal action against numerous companies that use images of apples as a part of their branding—even if they don’t look remotely similar to Apple’s. It’s also gone after companies named after other fruits, like pears.
It’s notable as well that Apple is not the only company attempting to rein in the rights to common words or images. Amazon has gotten into legal tiffs over the use of the word “prime,” for instance. And Google, in revealing its restructuring as Alphabet, likewise ran into some pushback, as there were more than 100 trademark registrations in the U.S. that included “alphabet” in their names at the time.
While the fate of Apple’s Swiss IP battle is uncertain, it’s simply the latest skirmish in an ongoing series of trademark battles that will likely only ramp up in the years to come.