Apple targeted in legal action over the ‘iWatch’ name it never used

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Martin Hajek
A software development studio in Ireland that owns the iWatch trademark in Europe is taking on Apple in the courts.

The dispute centers around Apple ads on Google’s search engine that offer links to the Apple Watch whenever a user runs a search on “iWatch”.

The software company, Probendi, believes it’s wrong for Apple to get extra traffic via a keyword related to a trademark it owns, and so at the end of last month took its grievances to court, Bloomberg reported.

In the filing, Probendi, whose company mission statement is “get to the center of the problem and solve it,” says, “Apple has systematically used iWatch wording on Google search engine in order to direct customers to its own website, advertising Apple Watch. Apple never replied to our requests and objections, while Google said they are not responsible for links.”

During the time that Apple was  prepping the launch of the Apple Watch a couple of years back, the Cupertino company filed for “iWatch” trademarks in a number of countries, among them Japan, Russia, and Turkey.

Following the iPhone and iPad, iWatch was the obvious name for Apple’s first ever smartwatch, but there was a problem. Probendi owned the iWatch trademark in Europe, having secured it back in 2008. The Dublin-based company said it’d told Apple last year not use the term for its smartwatch, adding that it had developed an app called iWatch that helps different devices talk to each other. Probendi said it’s also considering producing an Android smartwatch that it wants to name – you guessed it – iWatch.

The company claims its iWatch trademark to be worth some $97 million. That’s a whacking great load of money, but you may recall that back in 2012 Apple paid out $60 million to a Chinese company to settle a trademark dispute regarding the iPad name, though admittedly the nature of Probendi’s dispute is markedly different. At best the company may get a decent payout, at worst it’s picking up some publicity through its actions.

As Bloomberg notes, a slew of companies, several of them well-known outfits such as American Airlines and Rosetta Stone, have fought with Google and its advertisers over trademark issues in the past, though often without any positive outcome for those taking the action.

We’ll just have to wait and see if Probendi fares any better. A hearing is scheduled for November.

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