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Tuesday, October 07, 2008, 08:00 am PT (11:00 am ET)

Apple calls on lawyers in logo spat with Canadian school [updated]

Apple is being accused of bullying a Canadian technology school and loyal customer with charges of trademark infringement because its logo bears a familiar fruit.

According to the Victoria News, the Victoria School of Business and Technology received a strongly worded letter from Apple's outside attorneys this month, claiming that the institution's 3-year old logo "reproduces, without authority" the Mac maker's trademark symbol.

The logo, which can be seen below, is shaped like an apple and incorporates the mountain logo of the school's sister company with the letters VSBT in the corner.

Christopher Boag, vice president of VSBT, said he was in "total shock" when he received Apple's threat, arguing that the apple is a "traditional representation of education." He maintains the school came up with the "100 percent original" design through "a flow and a process," and never once has anyone confused it the Apple logo since its inception back in 2005.

In its letter, Apple said it's prepared to forgo a lawsuit should the school comply with its demand and remove the apple portion of its logo. VSBT officials are thus far standing strong, however, taking the matter to the media and accusing the company of using its stature to force the school to surrender.

"It's a matter of them trying to push over the little guy, to some degree," Boag said. "They figure we're going to roll over and play dead, but we want to be more vocal."

Boag added that VSBT is a stalwart supporter of all things Apple, and called on the electronics giant to reconsider its threats. The school reportedly employes dozens of Macs, with more on order, in addition to some iPhones.

Apple logo spat


For Apple, the move is at least the second this year aimed at protecting its ubiquitous trademark. In April, the company opposed a trademark filing for New York City's GreeNYC campaign because the logo showed a stylized apple with a stalk and a leaf.

If Apple were to proceed with its case against VSBT, it would need to prove the school's logo presented the possibility for confusion in the marketplace rather than simply establish that the marks look similar to each other.

"It's not so much whether it looks like the other guy's mark, as much as it is using it with something identified with the other person," said media lawyer David Sutherland, who noted that both Apple and VSBT are involved in the field of computers.

Update: AppleInsider forum member bandalay dugg up this example (below) of how VSBT is using their apple logo, which puts some of Apple's claims into perspective:

Apple logo spat