Apple lawyers have apparently been busy for the past few months destroying iPhone clone sellers in the UK who have been supplying copycat Chinese iPhones over the Internet. One casualty, which is now all but bankrupt, is Digital Playworld which received the full frontal assault of an army of Apple legal Rottweilers who, in the words of Simon Rimmer, Digital Playworld’s managing director, ‘came at me all guns blazing, big bully boy tactics’.
It seems that Mr Jobs’ henchmen were not best pleased that the clone products ‘created the same overall impression’ as the Apple products. According to Rimmer -
“Apple also stated that they were the owner of Unregistered Community Design Rights in its iPhone, iPod Touch and other products. They stated that “The similar [sic] between the products and their Designs is striking, In particular they said that my iClone products – which they listed in their letter – created the same impression as several of their Apple Community Registered Designs. They claimed that I acknowledged this similarity by using phrases such as ‘iPhone style’, ‘in the style of iPhone’ and ‘looks very like the iPhone’ in my descriptions.
Moreover, Apple also claimed that I was misrepresenting to the public that the products I sold were ‘associated or licensed’ by Apple thereby causing them damage. This was despite the descriptions actually stating that these phones were NOT Apple iPhones”
As a small business, Rimmer felt he had no choice but to settle rather than put up a financially crippling legal defence, and so he settled out of court. The terms of the settlement are interesting –
“In order to settle out of court I had to take several undertakings, which
included amongst other things:
Remove all said items from my site (or any other sites) and stop selling
Sign an oath that I would not offer to sell, market, import or stock ANY
products which are strikingly similar in design to Apple’s registered
Deliver to Apple’s legal team all remaining products in my possession,
suppliers details, prices paid for them, numbers imported, marketed and
I had to pay a contribution to their legal expenses AND damages.
So after all the costs and losing stock, I am as good as broke now!”
Now this may seem like justice gained for the giant Cupertino megacorps, and while it’s clear that some of the clones were indeed guilty of straight up IP theft – er…sticking an Apple logo on the back of the handset, copying the icons and making the box look identical to the original iPhone box is not clever at all, OK Mr Chinese gentlemen? – it’s interesting to see that Apple made Rimmer remove all clones from his site, even the ones which had no real link to the original apart from the fact that they both had black touchscreens and a power on button.
And as for signing an oath never to sell ANY products which are strikingly similar to Apple’s designs? Hmm…that sounds like something straight out of the Microsoft playbook. How are you to define similar? What happens if a product design pre-dates Apple’s design, can he not sell it?
The moral of this story is don’t mess with black roll-neck sweater wearing dudes, no matter how cuddly they look on stage.