Apple’s new iPhone 5 uses a different connector than previous models. Apple also chose to use the name LIGHTNING for this connector. Unfortunately for Apple, the trademark LIGHTNING was already used by Harley Davidson in association with video games, TV sets, and eyeglasses, in addition to its more common wares, namely motorcycles, helmets, and leather jackets. Without proper prosecution of its application or a settlement with Harley Davidson, Apple’s application for the LIGHTNING trademark would likely fail.
According to various news sources, Apple and Harley Davidson did reach an agreement whereby Apple purchased the portion of the trademark relating to electronic wares and services, leaving the rest of the trademark with Harley Davidson. Two things to note here:
1. Apple may have had a chance to continue with the LIGHTNING application since their product is quite different than Harley Davidson’s claimed protection over video games, tv sets, and eyeglasses. However, they may have purchased the trademark just to capture more protection, and to avoid the risk of complications in the application process. In my opinion this was prudent.
2. A trademark can be modified at any time to remove wares and services (as Harley Davidson did to its LIGHTNING trademark). This likely coincided with Apple’s application so that there was no gap for a third party to register in the meantime. There are generally no limitations to removing wares or services from a trademark, even if it has been used for several years.
If you want to know more about trademarks, contact me today.