What’s in a name, tiger?

As reported on AppleInsider and Slashdot:

AppleOnline retailer Tiger Direct has reportedly sued Apple over the use of the Tiger name just one day before the Mac maker is scheduled to roll-out its next-generation Mac OS X 10.4 ‘Tiger’ operating system, according to an article at AppleInsider. TigerDirect, which owns trademarks on the names Tiger, TigerDirect and TigerSoftware, has requested an injunction that could prevent Friday’s launch of the Tiger OS. Tiger Direct is also seeking damages and legal fees. ‘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.

Far from the first time Apple Computer has run into alleged trademark infringement – back in the day, they were sued by Apple Records (of the Beatles fame). That suit was thrown out under the following guideline (quoted from an Overview of Trademark Law off the Harvard University Web site):

The standard is “likelihood of confusion.” To be more specific, the use of a trademark in connection with the sale of a good constitutes infringement if it is likely to cause consumer confusion as to the source of those goods or as to the sponsorship or approval of such goods. In deciding whether consumers are likely to be confused, the courts will typically look to a number of factors, including: (1) the strength of the mark; (2) the proximity of the goods; (3) the similarity of the marks; (4) evidence of actual confusion; (5) the similarity of marketing channels used; (6) the degree of caution exercised by the typical purchaser; (7) the defendant’s intent.

No one in their right mind would think that Apple Computer’s latest operating system version has anything to do with a mail-order company that never authored, distributed, or sold its own operating system (i.e. TigerDirect). Now if the name of OS X.10.4 was “Amazon” that would be another story — Amazon is associated almost universally with online sales and products and could cause some brand confusion. However, unlike Amazon, TigerDirect doesn’t have the same household name recognition, and one would venture that the word “Tiger” as used in branding has even less name recognition.

Who wins? The lawyers. They’ll make money at the expense of the companies, their respective shareholders, and, ultimately, you and I – the consumer.

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