Thursday, April 28, 2005

The tiger we were stalking walked on paper feet

I've bought from online retailer Tiger Direct in the past, but they just lost my business: Apple Computer has been slapped with a lawsuit by Tiger Direct Inc. for allegedly infringing its trademark with the new Mac OS X "Tiger'' operating system scheduled for release on Friday. Tiger Direct, which sells computers and related products on the Internet, said Apple's Tiger OS threatens to dilute its trademarked name, according to Bloomberg, which has obtained a copy of the lawsuit. The online retailer also accused Apple of deceptive and unfair trade practices in the lawsuit, filed today in federal court in Miami, Florida, Bloomberg said. "Apple Computer has created and launched a nationwide media blitz led by Steven Jobs, overwhelming the computer world with a sea of Tiger references," Tiger Direct's attorneys wrote in the lawsuit. [...] The retailer said Apple's use of the name "is causing confusion, mistake and deception among the general purchasing public." At the root of the issue appears to internet search results. Tiger Direct contends that Apple's use of the name has adversely affected its ranking amongst the Internet's largest search engines, Google and Yahoo, bumping the company from its usual spot in the first three results. Somehow I doubt many are going to confuse a direct-sales retailer with an operating system. That's trademark arrogance on the Monster Cable level. It requires an amazing degree of self-delusion on the name-recognition value of the brand. Nor is their primary claim even true, at least with Google; right now, the top results Googling 'tiger' are (in order) from a site with information on actual tigers, Tiger Direct itself, a big cat sanctuary named Tiger Haven, and only then two hits on the latest iteration of OSX. Conversely, Tiger Direct doesn't even show up on the front page of a Yahoo search. One out of two isn't bad, I guess. (It does tend to undercut the basis of the suit a bit, though.) Moreover, do they plan on suing the non-profit tiger sanctuary for also daring to beat them in the Yahoo rankings, perchance? Or the US and British governments for the project and agency they respectively operate which also use Tiger as an acronym, and are similarly more visible in such a search? Of course, it's not as if this is even the first time Apple has run into a legal bully with a trademarked genericism of a name. Apple Records had kind of a weak case in the likely-to-confuse-customers side of things. It doesn't seem as if Tiger Direct's claim is any less ludicrous - and, as a bonus, trends towards the insulting. (Via Brian Tiemann.)

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