Apple loses iPod trademark bid

Computer giant Apple has failed in its bid to trademark the word “pod” in Australia, due to an objection from a guitar electronics company that produces a product by a similar name.


Guitar accessories group Line 6, which manufactures the “POD” device, blocked the trademark claim, arguing it has a pre-existing trademark in the same category related to musical devices.

While Line 6 has sold far fewer units of its product than Apple’s range of iPod devices, Australian Trade Marks Office hearing officer Iain Thompson declared that the POD device was still an established product.

“While the evidence does not show particularly strong sales [for Line 6’s POD], the marketplace is not particularly large and the participants in the musical industry are generally well informed about the products available to them to enable them to perform.”

Thompson said Line 6’s POD had established a niche market for itself. “I have no doubt that the opponent’s goods have established a reputation in Australia within the musical industry – among players of electric guitars in particular.”

Line 6 argued that if Apple were permitted to register the “pod” trademark, their marketing power – Apple is believed to have spent around $15 million promoting the iPod in the last 18 months – would damage Line 6’s own position in the market.

“Such pervasive marketing would overwhelm and erode Line 6’s registered mark and destroy its reputation in POD,” the group’s lawyers submitted.

But Apple’s legal representation said the POD was “digital signal processing hardware,” and thus did not fall into the “portable electronic devices” class of trademark. Thompson rejected the claim, arguing the iPod’s sound equaliser features used digital signal manipulation.

Thompson ordered Apple to pay Line 6’s legal costs.


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