Apple is threatening legal action against the Victoria School of Business and Technology, the Globe & Mail reported earlier this week. According to the lawyers representing Apple Inc., the school’s logo reproduces the Apple brand, thereby “falsely suggesting that Apple has authorized [the school’s] activities”. In other words, Apple thinks that a post-secondary institution in Canada represents a serious threat to its intellectual property and brand elements.

According to a poll on the Victoria School of Business and Technology’s website, 72% of respondents do not agree with Apple that the logos are confusingly similar. In other words, respondents don’t think the school is after Apple’s intellectual property. It is this type of public support that the school hopes will discourage Apple from following through with a lawsuit. In our culture, the apple can symbolize knowledge (as Newton’s apple), sin (as the forbidden fruit), and health (as we all know, an apple a day keeps the doctor away).

However, over the last thirty years, Apple Inc. has built up a particular two-dimensional representation of the apple to represent innovation in technology. It is most likely not the actual physical resemblance of the school’s logo to the Apple logo that is offensive to Apple, but rather the fact that this school sells itself on having expertise in technology AND has incorporated the two-dimensional symbol of the apple into its logo thus capitalizing on Apple’s status in the technology industry.

As a sidenote, Apple is no stranger to this type of conflict. The company has endured numerous legal disputes surrounding intellectual property with The Beatle’s Apple Corps since 1978. The final settlement came only last year.
As blogger Jeff James explains, “most brands need to fill [its] imagery with meaning over time (what would an apple logo really mean without the history of Apple’s brand?)”. Apple’s very first logo (shown right) depicts Sir Isaac Newton sitting beneath an apple tree… The logo has clearly come a long way since 1976. And Newton isn’t around to take Apple to task for ripping off what could be considered the intellectual property of HIS brand.

The current incarnation of the Apple logo is so well known across the world that the logo speaks for itself and no accompanying text of the company name is required. The logo is so effective that, according to a study stemming from Duke University, “just being exposed to the Apple logo can make you more creative”. The implication of this finding is that Apple’s logo is powerful, important, and its integrity is definitely worth fighting for. But perhaps not with such heavy-handed tactics.