Hamilton firm wins trademark dispute with Apple

A Hamilton-based company which makes cases for smartphones has won a New Zealand trademark dispute with technology giant and iPhone maker Apple.

The fight, at the New Zealand Intellectual Property Office, was over whether the New Zealand firm could register the trademark "DRIPHONE".

driPhone is a Hamilton company which makes waterproof and shockproof cases for smartphones. It sells protective cases for devices such as the iPhone and iPad as well as Android phones.

driPhone's director Hayden Crowther applied to register the trademark "Driphone" for waterproof electronic cases in August 2011 but this was opposed by tech giant Apple.

Apple has registered trademarks for the iPhone in New Zealand and argued the "driphone" mark would likely deceive or cause confusion.

Among other arguments, Apple also claimed use of the opposed trademark would breach sections of the Fair Trading Act.

During an IPONZ hearing, Crowther argued the trademark he was applying for sounded and looked very different from Apple's iPhone trade mark.

"My trade mark DRIPHONE is readily distinguishable from Apple's iPhone trade mark. In particular DRIPHONE does not use 'i' as a prefix. Additionally, the 'I' in DRIPHONE does not refer to the internet or other smart technology. Instead it is part of 'Dri' which is a phonetic spelling of 'dry' and refers to the fact that DRIPHONE cases are waterproof," Crowther said.

During their opposition, Apple submitted to IPONZ that the iPhone trade mark was a "household name in New Zealand" and people would wonder whether driPhone's goods were those of, or were licensed or endorsed by, Apple.

In her decision released yesterday, Assistant Commissioner Jane Glover declined all of Apple's grounds of opposition.

Glover said the "DRIPHONE" trademark must be registered if there was no appeal against her decision.

She awarded $2950 in costs to Crowther.

- By Hamish Fletcher of the NZ Herald

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