[This post originally appeared on Techdirt.]
It was just a few years ago when Apple used the moron in a hurry test to defend itself against a trademark suit, but their own legal department seems to have forgotten about it already. Apple has sent a cease and desist letter to the Victoria School of Business and Technology for the use of a blue and green apple element in their logo. The Canadian school has created a comparison page on their website in an attempt to highlight the differences between the logos, hoping to dissuade Apple from launching a lawsuit by building public support. The page also contains the legal correspondence to date, including a letter in which the school’s president asks if Apple is “suggesting that anyone using any variation of an apple for technology education related use is infringing on Apple’s trademark.”
The legal question is really about consumer confusion, as the Canadian Supreme Court has understood in the past. Trademark law doesn’t grant the holder an exclusive right over every use of a mark, just the right to prevent confusing or misleading use of it. The school is a technology school, but they’re also a school — an apple is a pretty common symbol for education. It seems like “even a moron in a hurry” would recognize the difference between the two logos, especially since the acronym “VSBT” is part of the school’s. The real problem here seems to be the requirement of trademark law that the holder of a mark actively polices its use. This requirement encourages these sorts of cease and desist letters, even if it seems like a comparison between apples and oranges.
[Read the comments on Techdirt.]