updated 10:25 pm EDT, Tue September 22, 2009
USPTO rejects Apple's claims, moves to trial
Apple is currently involved in a legal dispute with an entrepreneur, Daniel Kokin, over the use of the term "Pod," according to Wired. The iPod maker has threatened legal action against a variety of other individuals and companies that choose product names it considers too close to the popular media players. Most submit to Apple and follow the cease-and-desist commands, but Kokin has decided to fight back.
Kokin claims to have been working on a video projector, called the "Video Pod," for more than nine years. The product is designed to display video feeds from other devices such as DVD players, although it does not play music and is not intended to be a specific accessory for Apple's iPods.
In an attempt to protect its iPod trademark, Apple's attorneys attempted to prevent Kokin from registering his Pod trademark. The legal team argues that "the public has long been using the POD mark as an abbreviation for [Apple's] famous IPOD players, and, thus, the POD mark has also achieved recognition and distinction among the consuming public..."
Kokik admits that he was aware of the iPod before deciding to name his product the Video Pod. He argues, however, that the dominant portion of Apple's trademark is the "i" instead of the "Pod," making confusion unlikely.
Although both sides requested for summary judgment on several issues, the USPTO board has denied both requests. "At a minimum, genuine issues of material fact exist as to whether the parties' respective marks, considered as a whole, create confusingly similar overall commercial impressions, and whether and to what extent the parties goods are similar or related," a USPTO filing reads.
"It's an amazing feeling, it really is. I'm a little guy, and for Apple to be kind of shut down at this stage, I feel vindicated," Kokin told Wired. "You start to question your own sanity after a while. Am I doing something wrong? Or am I at a disadvantage because I have no money and therefore I'm supposed to be wrong?"
The USPTO decision effectively forces Apple and Kokin to continue their trademark battle in a formal court. If the underdog wins, the trial may serve as inspiration for other companies that have not considered standing up against Apple's cease-and-desist letters.
"I think Daniel's got an excellent chance," said Kokin's attorney, David Herzog. "It's a great win because so often the appeals board grants the summary judgment. There's no question that this is a good ruling and is certainly making Apple nervous for sure."