Your iBooks? My iBooks. This week a New York publisher filed suit in a Manhattan court, arguing that Apple's iBooks application infringes on a decade-old patent. The background: In 2006 and 2007, the publisher in question, John T. Colby, purchased the works of another publisher, Byron Preiss. As it turns out, Mr. Preiss had been using the word iBook to describe his writings since at least 1999 (before iPod, after iMac). And now John T. Colby wants its dues.
"Apple’s use of the mark ‘iBooks’ to denote the electronic library that can be accessed via its iPad tablet computer and its iPhone is likely to overwhelm the good will of plaintiffs' 'ibooks' and 'ipicturebooks' marks and render them virtually worthless,” the lawsuit says, according to Bloomberg. Apple, for its part, is staying mum, but as Chris Foresman at Ars Technica notes, "this could be tricky situation for Apple."
"The company has a currently active and registered trademark for iBooks relating to 'computer software used to support and create interactive, user-modifiable electronic books.' That trademark has a first use date for that purpose of October 2000," Foresman continues, "though it is worth noting that the trademark was transferred to Apple from a previous owner last year."
It's also worth noting that this isn't the first time Apple has been faced with a suit like this. Fujitsu, for instance, originally trademarked the term "iPad," and Cisco trademarked the term "iPhone"; Apple eventually settled with both parties. In fact, brand names in the tech world are forever being recycled. Consider the phrase "app store." It belongs to Apple, right?
Well, not so fast. In March, Amazon unveiled its own Kindle "Appstore," which got Apple reps all kinds of angry. (The Amazon version has no space between the "app" and the "store.") So angry, in fact, that Apple filed suit in California federal court, seeking to prevent Amazon from using the Appstore moniker. "We've asked Amazon not to copy the APP STORE name because it will confuse and mislead customers," Apple spokeswoman Kristin Huguet told Reuters.