iPhone Vs Driphone Trademark

iPhone Vs Driphone – Hamilton-based Hayden Crowther has accomplished something that even the largest phone companies could not: he defeated technology giant Apple in a trademark dispute. The New Zealand inventor was sued by Apple for the use of his trademark “DRIPHONE” for his product range of waterproof phone cases. driPhone is a small company that produces waterproof and shockproof phone cases for smartphones, including Android and iPhones. 

Crowther, company director, attempted to register the mark ‘driPhone’ for waterproof electronic cases in 2011 but was quickly opposed by Apple.

The iPhone Vs Driphone trademark dispute, which took place in the New Zealand Intellectual Property Office, was over whether Crowther’s mark infringed upon Apple’s rights as a registered trademark holder. Apple, obliged to defend its marks belligerently, sued Crowther on the claim that his trademark could cause consumers to think that his phone cases were an Apple-produced product.

iPhone Vs Driphone -Trademark Dispute New Zealand

Apple has registered its trademarks in countries worldwide, including in New Zealand, and so were determined to prove that ‘driPhone’ was likely to cause consumer confusion or deception.

Among various arguments, tech giant Apple claimed that the use of Crowther’s mark would be a breach of the Fair Trading Act.

In response, Crowther claimed that his mark differed from Apple’s in both sound and appearance. He argued that his own mark was distinguishable from Apple’s, in that the mark did not use the letter ‘i’ as a prefix; nor did the ‘i’ intend to refer to the internet or to smart technology. Rather, ‘DRI’ in ‘DRIPHONE’ made reference to the fact that the phone cases were waterproof. The ‘DRI’ in ‘DRIPHONE’ was intended to be a phonetic use of the word ‘DRY’.

iPhone Vs Driphone -Trademark Dispute New Zealand

The success of Crowther’s iPhone Vs Driphone case rested on the fact that his company is based in New Zealand. This is due to the fact that several other New Zealand brand names used the same phonetic spelling of ‘DRY’ in their own company or product names. Should Crowther attempt to sell his cases in any other country, he is likely to come up against a renewed challenge with Apple. Apple would be more likely to succeed the next time, due to the fact that ‘DRI’ is not a common spelling of the word ‘DRY’ in any other country.

During the iPhone Vs Driphone court battle, Apple claimed to IPONZ that their own iPhone trademark was a household name in New Zealand, and so Crowther’s mark was likely to make consumers believe that driPhone’s products were affiliated with or licensed by Apple.

Assistant Commissioner Jane Glover declined Apple’s grounds for opposition. She stated that the “DRIPHONE” trademark could be allowed to be registered so long as there was no appeal against her decision. Crowther was awarded $2950 to cover the costs of the suit.  To read the case visit – http://www.nzlii.org/cgi-bin/sinodisp/nz/cases/NZIPOTM/2013/48.html

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