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Apple loses its iconic 'Think Different' trademark in a legal case against Swatch

Over the past years, Apple and Swatch, a well-known Swedish watch manufacturer, have been involved in a number of trademark disputes due to overlap in their product market since the release of “Apple Watch”. Recently, Apple lost yet another trademark dispute against Swatch, this time for its slogan associated with a highly successful advertising campaign, “Think Different”.

By

Igor Demcak

Case details

Apple Inc first obtained registration of the word sign THINK DIFFERENT as an EU trademark back in 1997. The goods in respect of which the registration was sought include IT products such as computers, computer terminals, keyboards, computer hardware, software and multimedia products. The campaign is mostly associated with a famous Apple commercial, in which Steve Jobs, the company’s founder, praises the creativity of the greatest innovators in human history, as video clips scroll by Martin Luther King, Albert Einstein and many others, and, in the end, Apple’s logo appears accompanied by the slogan “Think Different”.

In 2016, Swatch filed several applications before the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) seeking to revoke Apple’s “Think Different” trademark on the grounds of non-use. Swatch argued that the term “Think Different” was not used in relation to the products for which they were registered. According to the EUIPO, the EU trademark must be put to genuine use in the European Union in the five years following its registration. Moreover, use must not be interrupted for over five years. Apple was required to submit evidence proving trademark use in connection to its goods and services for the five years preceding Swatch’s applications. The evidence provided by Apple was evaluated by the Court and considered to be either not sufficient enough to show genuine use or fall outside the scope of the five years.

On 24 August 2018, the Cancellation Division of the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) revoked the contested marks in respect of all the goods concerned. In addition to the absence of genuine use, the Board of Appeal attributed the trademarks to a rather weak distinctive character. In response to this decision, Apple brought three actions before the General Court of the European Union, which were later dismissed in June 2022. 

Previous disputes between Apple and Swatch

One more thing

In 2015, Swatch filed an application to protect the word trademark 'One more thing' in a number of jurisdictions around the world. Apple opposed this application, arguing that consumers would likely associate the trademark with the public speeches given by Steve Jobs. The American entrepreneur and one of the most influential businessmen of our times often introduced the highlights of Apple products with the words "One more thing". In many cases, completely new product categories, such as the iPod mini or the MacBook Pro, were presented, so this phrase was often associated with high expectations of the audience. Even after Jobs' death, the saying found its way into Apple's presentations - when the company presented the first Macs with ARM chips in 2020, even the event bore this title.

iWatch

In 2016, Apple filed a trademark application for the term ‘iWatch’ in the U.K. Swatch proceeded to file an immediate objection to it for its iSwatch and Swatch products. The Swiss company argued that it had already acquired an earlier trademark for iSwatch that included similar products to the proposed smartwatch. According to their claim, allowing Apple to register its trademark in the U.K. in similar trademark classes would be likely to cause consumer confusion. The Court affirmed this claim, and Swatch successfully opposed Apple’s trademark application for the term “iWatch” before the U.K. Intellectual Property Office, forcing Apple to call its smartwatch “Apple Watch.” 

Igor Demcak
Igor Demcak
Trademark Attorney

Founder & CEO of Trama

7 year experience in IP protection

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