Apple wants to force a fruit company to change its logo

Apple logo battersea store
(Image credit: Apple)

Apple has a history of being quick to turn to litigation when it feels its trademarks are being infringed upon, but it might be taking things a step too far in Switzerland.

The Fruit Union Suisse has been around for 111 years, but it might have to change its logo because Apple wants to trademark the generic Apple shape. It's been trying to do it since 2017, and now it could prove problematic for some companies.

Apple has so far not commented on the potential trademark spat, Fruit Union Suisse director Jimmy Mariéthoz says that Apple's move doesn't make sense. “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.”

Trademark troubles

“We have a hard time understanding this, because it’s not like they’re trying to protect their bitten apple,” Mariéthoz pointed out. And he's right. Wired points out that Apple "submitted an application to the Swiss Institute of Intellectual Property (IPI) requesting the IP rights for a realistic, black-and-white depiction of an apple variety known as the Granny Smith—the generic green apple." Apple essentially wants to prevent companies from using an Apple in their logos.

The Swiss authorities apparently partially granted Apple's trademark request, "saying that Apple could have rights relating to only some of the goods it wanted, citing a legal principle that considers generic images of common goods—like apples—to be in the public domain." But Apple has already launched an appeal.

Some are already concerned because Apple has a history of enforcing fruit-based patents. It's already gone after an app that used a pear logo, while even a school district previously found itself in Apple's crosshairs.

Apple is of course able to protect trademarks to prevent people from using its logo, but the suggestion is that it's now stretching far beyond that logo. With Apple's best iPhone, the iPhone 15, set to go on sale later this year, it wants to be sure that no other phone with a similar logo can go up against it. But does that really extend to a company whose business is in literal Apples?

You'd think not. But a 2022 investigation by the Tech Transparency Project discovered that Apple filed more trademark oppositions than Facebook, Amazon, Google, and Microsoft combined between 2019 and 2021.

Oliver Haslam

Oliver Haslam has written about Apple and the wider technology business for more than a decade with bylines on How-To Geek, PC Mag, iDownloadBlog, and many more. He has also been published in print for Macworld, including cover stories. At iMore, Oliver is involved in daily news coverage and, not being short of opinions, has been known to 'explain' those thoughts in more detail, too. Having grown up using PCs and spending far too much money on graphics card and flashy RAM, Oliver switched to the Mac with a G5 iMac and hasn't looked back. Since then he's seen the growth of the smartphone world, backed by iPhone, and new product categories come and go. Current expertise includes iOS, macOS, streaming services, and pretty much anything that has a battery or plugs into a wall. Oliver also covers mobile gaming for iMore, with Apple Arcade a particular focus. He's been gaming since the Atari 2600 days and still struggles to comprehend the fact he can play console quality titles on his pocket computer.