Apple accused of trademark abuse in new 'Memoji' lawsuit

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in iOS
Apple's legal troubles relating to the 'Memoji' trademark have worsened, with Social Technologies filing a second lawsuit accusing Apple of improper use of the term that it owns, including allegations Apple claimed to be the owner of the Memoji trademark in June.




In a filing at the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York submitted on Monday, Social Technologies, claims Apple is improperly and fraudulently identifying Memoji as a registered trademark, despite not owning the mark in the United States. Specifically, the firm alleges Apple has falsely marked Memoji by including the term in the Apple Trademark List on its website, which is claimed to be an attempt to "defraud the general public to Social Tech's detriment."

Social tech is the creator of an Android app called Memoji.

In short, the complaint is that Apple is using the encircled R symbol denoting a registered mark in relation to Memoji on that website, rather than the TM or SM symbol which denotes a trademark or service mark that has not necessarily been granted a registration from the US Patent and Trademark Office.

The filing highlights Apple's awareness of the differences within the trademark list page's text, which instructs for the use of the listed terms using the "appropriate" symbol "on first use" in publications distributed only within the United States, or otherwise to include an appropriate trademark attribution notice.

Complicating matters further is the inclusion of the mark on the list, in connection to an earlier lawsuit from 2018 filed by Social Tech in the Northern District of California over the matter.

According to the complaint, Social Tech checked the trademark list page on June 17, a day before Apple Senior Director of Copyright and Trademark Thomas La Perle was scheduled to give a deposition in connection to the California lawsuit, and saw Memoji was not included on the list.

Immediately after the deposition, Social Tech alleges the list was updated to include the supposed false designation for Memoji. Social Tech claims La Perle "orchestrated a scheme to undermine Social Tech's registered trademark rights" with the move.

The filing goes on to highlight a federal court finding that "The improper use of a registration notice in connection with an unregistered mark, if done with intent to deceive the purchasing public or others in the trade into believing that the mark is registered, is ground for denying the registration of an otherwise registrable mark."

The "extensive advertising" of Memoji is also raised, with it being used not only to promote iPhones and iPads, but also in its use "as a mascot for its entire brand," such as to promote Apple Music and even to replace the executive headshots ahead of the feature's availability to the public in iOS.

Social Tech's complaint has four listings for "cause of action," including the false designation of a trademark as federally registered, the dilution of the Memoji trademark, unfair competition, and a violation of New York General Business Law.

In its prayer for relied, Social Tech asks for a prohibition of Apple and it's agents from using the registration symbol in connection with Memoji, a ban of using the infringing mark or "any colorable imitation or confusingly similar variation," monetary damages, pre- and post-judgment interest, costs and expenses, attorney's fees, and the declaration that Social Tech owns the only federally registered Memoji trademark.

Social Technologies Versus Apple - New York by Mike Wuerthele on Scribd

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 12
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 7,462member
    Another day, another lawsuit. This too will pass into obscurity. And some wonder why corporations need a legal department.
    jbdragonAppleExposedwatto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 12
    Perhaps the Apple legal depertment should step up and make sure that their colleagues in Marketing don't drop them in it like this.
    If this other company does own the trademark then this is just sloppy by apple. All they need was a disclaimer in 2pt type saying that they don't own the trademark rights in the USA.
    IANAL etc.
    cornchipviclauyycjbdragonFileMakerFeller
  • Reply 3 of 12
    It's a difficult case to win, not because it's a trademark fight, but because it's based on a scenario that has far simpler explanations. 
  • Reply 4 of 12
    cornchipcornchip Posts: 1,424member
    "Mymoji"? 

    No, I didn't look it up.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 12
    Apple's listing on the Trademark List appears to be something of a fuck you to these folks. Memoji as listed there now is all-caps MEMOJI® (unlike every other mark listed) and if you look at the original lawsuit, you'll find the Android app was using MEMOJI while Apple was using Memoji. This is also in contrast to how Apple actually uses it, as Memoji.

    Basically Social Tech filed an intent to use MEMOJI [Pseudo mark: ME MOJI] in April 2016 and then, more than two years later, was still not ready to go when Apple launched Memoji. They then scrambled to put something out so they could capitalize on having filed the intent to use and maintained it over those two years.

    Also, the trademark application that Apple did buy was for MEmoji ... [Pseudo mark: ME EMOJI] -- filed April 2017.

    So they are different.

    Maybe when Apple's lawyer cites "common law" in its defense he is talking about the fact Social Technologies did not launch until after Apple did so. So they can't complain about getting swamped, and they have no right to recompense for that. Apple isn't required to sit around waiting to see if Social Tech will ever launch. They can argue about ME EMOJI versus ME MOJI, but that's all. And maybe that's a loser for Social Tech, because ME EMOJI is a stronger pseudo mark than ME MOJI -- WTF is a "MOJI" ? -- when Apple uses "Memoji."
    edited September 30 jbdragongregoriusmFileMakerFellerkuraiAppleExposed
  • Reply 6 of 12
    Little pups... nipping at the feet once more.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 12
    This is just Apple poking Social Technologies with a sharp stick to keep them in their lane. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 12
    Perhaps the Apple legal depertment should step up and make sure that their colleagues in Marketing don't drop them in it like this.
    If this other company does own the trademark then this is just sloppy by apple. All they need was a disclaimer in 2pt type saying that they don't own the trademark rights in the USA.
    IANAL etc.
    Exactly right. If this company has a shipping product that uses this name Apple should have not used it. It looks like nobody checked. A screw up on Apple’s part. One that they will have to pay for. 

    Something just occurred to me. Do you think whoever it was that used it on stage thought of it on the spot and dropped it in the presentation? He seemed awfully pleased with himself. 
  • Reply 9 of 12
    DAalseth said:
    Perhaps the Apple legal depertment should step up and make sure that their colleagues in Marketing don't drop them in it like this.
    If this other company does own the trademark then this is just sloppy by apple. All they need was a disclaimer in 2pt type saying that they don't own the trademark rights in the USA.
    IANAL etc.
    Exactly right. If this company has a shipping product that uses this name Apple should have not used it. It looks like nobody checked. A screw up on Apple’s part. One that they will have to pay for. 

    Something just occurred to me. Do you think whoever it was that used it on stage thought of it on the spot and dropped it in the presentation? He seemed awfully pleased with himself. 
    Apple, as we might expect it to have, did a trademark clearance on the name before it announced the name. It searched and found the party which it believed first (in 2014) used the trademark in a way similar to what Apple intended. Then it acquired the rights to the trademark from that party.

    At the time Social Technologies wasn't using the trademark. It had applied for registration of the trademark based on an intent to use, but after 2 years still wasn't using it. At any rate, Apple had bought rights from a party who had prior (and according to Apple, continuing) use of the trademark. So Apple might reasonably have expected that, even if Social Technologies starting using and was able to register the trademark, Apple would be able to get that registration cancelled based on its own (acquired) priority.

    Whether Apple is right in its legal position, the name wasn't something thought up on the spot during the presentation. Apple had already taken actions based on its intent to use that name.
    jbdragonFileMakerFellerroundaboutnowAppleExposedwatto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 12
    Most suits come across as frivolous money grabs regarding patents. I can't stand it - patent reform is so needed - I really think if a company gets a patent they have to actually use it to keep it, and if they do not use it (even if they are licensing it) the patent should expire after a set period of time. Most patents seem to lock things up, rather than protect innovation. We could be a lot further a long technology wise if people focused on moving forwards.
    As for this suit, it seems like a company actually wants to maintain and keep the name of their application - they don't want Apple to turn around and tell them they can't use the name for their app (changing an app name would require remarketing, etc). It's the principle. As for whether it's truly valid, that's for the courts to decide.
    As for comments on what MOJI means, well it comes from Japanese 文字 which reads as 'MOJI' and means 'character'. EMOJI does not mean 'electronic' character, but rather 'emotion' character. They have been used on mobile phones here for decades, when messages had to be kept short, they made it easy to express things more quickly and easily. When I first heard MEMOJI I thought of it as motion - emotion - character, since I first saw them being used in messages to send short video messages in the Apple demo.
    Social Tech is right to care about this, but they really bungled it taking so long to actually use the TM. As for Apple - a bit of a shady move  removing then re-adding the their 'registered' (but not actually registered - say what?) trademark.
    roundaboutnow
  • Reply 11 of 12
    So maybe Social Tech is only filing this lawsuit to provide evidence later on that they acted to protect their trademark? There seems to be something in US law that requires protective action to be taken regarding branding IP in order to continue to receive protection. I remember that a few years back Apple was taking action against the Woolworths brand in Australia based on a _really_ broad similarity between the company logos. (See https://woolworths.com.au for an example, the logo is a "w" character stylised to look like a green apple)
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 12 of 12
    AppleExposedAppleExposed Posts: 1,685unconfirmed, member
    Could hurt Apple if the courts decide something ridiculous like Apple having a monopoly on Emoji/Memoji allowing knockoffs like Samsung Galaxies to have the same features and characters with the name "Memoji".
    watto_cobra
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