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Apple sues Swatch over 'Tick different' trademark

Swiss watch conglomerate Swatch is again under fire for allegedly capitalizing on successful Apple marketing. The watchmaker is being taken to court for emblazoning "Tick different" on certain watch models, a phrase Apple claims is a play on its 1990s "Think Different" ad campaign.

Lodged last week, Apple's complaint is being adjudicated by the Swiss Federal Administrative Court, reports Watson. In order to successfully argue its case, Apple will have to prove that at least 50 percent of consumers associate "Think Different" with Apple branding.

Apple is being represented by Zurich law firm Lenz & Staehelin, which filed a concurrent, but unsuccessful, complaint with the Swiss Federal Institute of Intellectual Property.

Responding to Apple's accusations, Swatch CEO Nick Hayek said any similarity between the two campaigns is coincidental. Hayek asserts "Tick different" has its roots in a Swatch campaign from the '80s that carried the phrase "Always different, always new."

Further confusing matters, Swatch applied for and was granted a U.S. trademark for "Tick different" some two years ago. With a priority date of July 16, 2015, the mark was officially published in October 2016. The USPTO recently granted an extension to the mark in January. Swatch holds the same trademark in Switzerland.

While the mark covers a number of potential applications, Swatch currently uses "Tick different" to distinguish Bellamy, a quartz wristwatch with built-in Visa NFC payment functionality. The company leveraged Bellamy to break into the Chinese mobile payments market in 2015, beating both Apple Pay and Apple Watch by four months.

Dreamed up by longtime Apple advertising agency TBWA\Chiat\Day when the tech giant was struggling, the "Think Different" campaign ran from 1997 through 2002. Initially called "crap" by late co-founder Steve Jobs, the now iconic series matched the slogan with black-and-white photos of famous visionaries. Kicking off the ad blitz was the award-winning "To the crazy ones" TV spot, which featured a voice-over by Richard Dreyfuss. Many ad industry insiders consider "Think Different" one of the most influential campaigns in recent history.

For Hayek and Swatch, "Tick different" follows a string of controversial moves made since Apple announced Apple Watch — potential competition to Swatch's core business — in 2014.

In 2015, Swatch won a trademark on the phrase "one more thing," words Jobs would often use to preface surprise announcements at keynote events. Swatch later said the catchphrase was inspired by the TV show "Columbo" and would be used to market a collection of film noir watches.

The watchmaker also attempted to block Apple's UK trademark application for "iWatch," saying it was too similar to Swatch's "iSwatch" mark. Some believe Swatch filed "iSwatch" as a pre-emptive strike against Apple's inevitable smartwatch rollout. The UK Intellectual Property Office ultimately sided with Swatch last year, long after Apple decided to market its wearable under the Apple Watch moniker.