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Apple wants to control every image of an apple, says Swiss fruit firm

Left: Apple's logo. Right: Fruit Union Suisse's current logo

Fruit Union Suisse says Apple is not just contesting its trademark apple logo, it wants to get exclusive rights to all depictions of actual apples.

Apple has been here before, and it will be again — as a trademark owner, it is required to contest all challenges to its famous mark. That's easy to see in the case of any deliberate infringement, but less so with coincidental or even hard-to-spot similarities between logos.

Now according to Wired, Apple is continuing a six-year fight against Fruit Union Suisse, an association that has been promoting the interests of Swiss fruit growers for over 100 years. Fruit Union Suisse director Jimmy Mariethoz says that, for at least the majority of that time, it has used a logo of a red apple with a white cross on it.

"We have a hard time understanding this [case with Apple], because it's not like they're trying to protect their bitten apple," said Mariethoz. "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."

"We're concerned that any visual representation of an apple — so anything that's audiovisual or linked to new technologies or to media — could be potentially impacted," continued Mariethoz. "Theoretically, we could be entering slippery territory everytime we advertise with an apple."

Fruit Union Suisse's logo up to 2011
Fruit Union Suisse's logo up to 2011

While it's true that the association has long used a logo of a red apple with a white cross, the company revised it in 2011 to celebrate the group's 100th year. It's arguable whether the current logo resembles Apple's enough that consumers could be confused, but it is considerably more like Apple's than the pre-2017 one.

In 2017, Apple applied to the Swiss Institute of Intellectual Property (IPI) asking for the rights to what Wired describes as a realistic black-and-white depiction of a Granny Smith apple. Note that Fruit Union Suisse appears to exclusively use a red logo, but it's possible that it may use it in documentation done with only two-color printing, rendering it black and whote.

The 2017 IP application had to specify usage, and Apple submitted an extensive list centered on digital and electronic consumer goods.

The IPI reportedly gave Apple a partial win in late 2022, saying that the company could have the rights to only certain of the submitted categories. Apple is now appealing to win the rest of the rights.

So far the IPI have released what trademark uses were denied to Apple, saying that the case is still under review.

It's not clear whether Fruit Union Suisse chose now to comment publicly, or exactly under which trademark categories its association may be falling foul of Apple.

However, Wired notes that the World Intellectual Property Organization says Apple has made a number of similar trademark requests worldwide.

In a previous case against Prepare in 2021, the company revised its logo in order to end what it called "bullying" tactics from Apple.