Apple Wants Swiss Fruit Union to Change its 100-Year Old Logo
Tim Cook’s Apple is trying to get rights over pictures of apples in Switzerland. This move has worried the Fruit Union Suisse, Switzerland’s oldest and largest fruit farmer group, about its logo, which is over a hundred years old. The logo is an apple with a cross on it.
The Fruit Union Suisse has used this logo for a long time. It shows the Swiss national flag on a red apple, a common fruit in the country. But now, Apple’s move to get rights over apple pictures has made the Union worry about changing its logo.
“We find this hard to understand,” says Jimmy Mariéthoz, the head of Fruit Union Suisse, to Wired. He points out that Apple isn’t just trying to protect its famous logo of a bitten apple. They want to own the rights to a picture of a real apple. Mariéthoz believes that the apple is a common symbol that everyone should be free to use.
“We’re concerned that any visual representation of an apple—so anything that’s audiovisual or linked to new technologies or to media—could be potentially impacted. That would be a very, very big restriction for us,” added Mariéthoz, noting every time they advertise with an apple it could potentially mean a lawsuit.
This strange case is part of a bigger trend. The World Intellectual Property Organization’s records show that Apple has made similar requests to many IP groups around the world. Some have agreed, and some have not. Apple’s push to own the rights of a common fruit shows how companies are fighting over trademarks.
Apple first tried to get the trademark in Switzerland in 2017. They asked the Swiss Institute of Intellectual Property (IPI) for rights over a real-looking picture of a Granny Smith apple. The IPI partly agreed to Apple’s request last fall, but Apple started an appeal in the spring.
The Fruit Union is worried because it’s not clear what uses of the apple picture Apple will try to protect. Mariéthoz is concerned that any picture of an apple could be affected. This would limit what they can do a lot.
Apple has a history of strongly going after things it sees as breaking its trademarks. In the past few years, the company has tried to stop more trademarks than Microsoft, Facebook, Amazon, and Google combined. But it hasn’t always won. In 2012, Swiss Federal Railways got a $21 million settlement after showing that Apple had copied the design of the Swiss railway clock.
The current case could take months or even years to decide. It’s very important for the Swiss apple growers. If they have to change their brand after a decision, they could lose a lot of money. Mariéthoz says they don’t want to compete with Apple. He adds, “Apple didn’t invent apples … We have been around for 111 years. And I think apples have been around for a lot longer.”
It’s unclear how Apple picks its trademark cases to pursue. Two years ago, Apple went after an app that had a pear as its logo, alleging trademark infringement. With our help, media exposure resulted in Prepear settling its case with Apple.