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Op-Ed

Apple is rotten

March 18, 2022

Apple computer, once a cool company, has become a stupid imitator of Donald Schlumpf: a rotten apple suing little guys for no reason but greed and strutting.

Robert Kahn

By Robert Kahn

Deputy editor emeritus, Courthouse News

Apple computer ought to be ashamed of itself, if its bosses knew what shame is, which they do not.

Among many shameful, nay, disgusting, examples of Apple’s litigious bullying was suing the Appleton Area [Public] School District in Wisconsin, for daring to try to register a trademark bearing — brace yourself — three apples. 

As you can see in Apple’s 323-page filing in Apple v. Appleton School District, the public school district, with about 16,000 students, abandoned its logo rather than waste tax money meant to educate children. 

For the record, Appleton was incorporated as a city in 1857, though it existed before that. It’s the sixth-largest city in Wisconsin, and — brace yourself, they grow apples there — and sell them! — How dare they?

Apple was incorporated as Apple Computer in 1977, 120 years after Appleton. In 2018 Apple became the first publicly traded company valued at more than $1 trillion (then $2 trillion in 2020 and $2.6 trillion this year.)

So Apple has a lot of money to throw around. And, like the obnoxious ex-presidente Schlumpf, it uses a lot of them apples to sue would-be competitors, and not-even competitors — so long as they’re little guys, who can literally be sued out of business.

After reading a March 12 article about Apple’s trademark bullying in The New York Times, I wanted to see if I could write a column with “apple” in every sentence, to see if the Abominable SnowApple would try to sue me.

The Times online headline contains the phrase “Behind Apple’s ‘Bullying’ on Trademarks,” the scare quotes on ‘Bullying’ inserted, no doubt, to fend off a libel lawsuit from the bully. 

But Apple is a bully, with scare quotes or without them. The Times was reporting, but this is just my opinion, Apple: you creeps.

“Before 2000, it [Apple — the bully] filed just a handful of trademark oppositions each year, peaking at nine in 1989,” the Times reported. But from 2019 through 2011, Apple filed 215 trademark oppositions — more than one a week — according to the nonprofit Tech Transparency Project. At least 164 of those 215 sacrificial apples — excuse me, I mean lambs — withdrew their applications or defaulted, rather than pay the legal fees.

Among Apple’s unsuspecting victims:

• Big Apple Curry, a New York City Indian-cooking blog. But Big Apple has been a popular nickname for New York City since the 1920s, and has been traced as far back as 1909.

• Citrus, a trash-collection company whose bosses must have had cojones the size of apples when they tried to register a logo of an orange.

• Prepear, a food-preparation company whose logo, as you can see in the link, looks nothing like an apple. Because it’s not an apple — it’s a pear.

Another victim of Apple’s bullying was Stephanie Carlisi, an independent singer-songwriter, who sings, or sang, under the name Franki Pineapple, until Apple sued her for it in 2020. According to the Times, Apple argued that though apples and pineapples are different, they are “both the names of fruits, and thus convey a similar commercial impression.” Carlisi told the Times that she has seven monthly listeners on Spotify, and that she spent $10,000 on legal fees until she gave up.

Did this poor, talented woman have Apple trembling in its expensive boots?

Apple has a team of crackerjack lawyers who created a template to use to sue little people, to save the arrogant corporation money on its own legal fees while, in my opinion, interfering with the rights of other people and companies to exercise their rights to free trade, and compete in a not-really open market.

But of all these insults from the Abominable Applemen, the most reprehensible to me is when it sued a public school district. Even to respond to Apple’s snotty lawsuit surely cost the Appleton Area School District money that could have been spent on books, or teachers’ aides, or, god help us, playground equipment.

I close with a link to Franki Pineapple’s debut single on Spotify, a tribute, if you can call it that, to Apple. You can read the title on the previous link, which I have not listened to, because I don’t like Spotify any more than Apple. 

(For the record, I used the word “apple” 48 times in this column’s 32 sentences. What’re you gonna do about it, Apple?)

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