Locals beat Apple in IP battle

A Melbourne sport statistics business has defeated global consumer electronics giant Apple in an IP battle over the use of the word “pod”.

Prowess Sports lodged a trademark application in 2005 for its StatsPod product, a device that allows sports professionals to record statistics by voice rather than using a keyboard or mouse to enter them by hand.

Shortly afterwards Apple fired off an objection to the application, arguing that it was “deceptively similar” to its well-known iPod brand and infringed its trademark for that name.

An innovative but relatively modest 10-person operation, the early odds didn’t look good for Prowess, but nerves turned to celebration when it recently received word that Apple’s objection to its trademark had been rejected.

But while happy with the win, Prowess’s three year battle with Apple has come with a cost. Chief executive Gundars Mantinieks says legal fees in the vicinity of $30,000 and hundreds of work hours are just some of the costs involved.

“Perhaps the hardest thing is we have had to withhold our usual marketing on StatsPod – the last thing we wanted to do was market the product in a major way and then lose the investment because the name has to be withdrawn,” Mantinieks says.

He says his refusal to back down in the face of Apple’s challenge was as much a matter of principle as a business decision.

“We just wanted to get across the point that everyone’s got rights,” Mantinieks says. “It’s just unfair and I think we made the point, so there was principle in it, and money-wise it’s something where we’re hoping we haven’t lost too much ground.”

Apple’s objection was rejected by IP Australia hearing officer Debrett Lyons on the basis that the terms “iPod” and “StatsPod” are not visually or aurally similar and there was no chance of deception or confusion between the two.

Prowess developed the StatsPod product to make it easier for both its own and external staff, mainly in the AFL, to collect sports statistics when in the field. Its development was assisted by a government grant of more than $100,000 under the recently abolished Commercial Ready program.


Read more about government grants


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