Sour Apples: Apple and Woolworths Battle Over Logo

Retailer's logo raises the ire of Apple

Apple isn't pleased with Woolworths Supermarkets' new logo, and this time the notoriously hard-lined tech company has a point.

Australia's Woolworths describes its logo (a peeled apple) as having "a stylised 'W' for Woolworths with the addition of an abstract leaf symbol representing fresh food." Apple thinks it's a rip off of its own famous logo and has reportedly filed a petition with IP Australia to reject Woolworths' logo.

[ Logos play an important role in the marketing and meaning of iPhone apps. Check out 10 iPhone app logos and learn what makes them good and bad, reports CIO.com. ]

Already Woolworths' new logo is expected to appear on 100,000 staff shirts, 800 trucks and on plastic bags in 780 supermarkets, AFN reports. While a ruling still must be made, one thing is a good bet: There won't be a Woolworth iPhone app on Apple's App Store.

Are these logos too similar?

So what's behind these sour apples? After all, Woolworth sells food, not technology. The two companies don't compete with each other. And Apple doesn't have the rights to everything that looks like an apple.

It's still a problem, says Steve Yamaguma, CEO of Design2Market, a graphic design firm in Silicon Valley. "There is a lot of equity built up by Apple with its logo, and any marketer would know that something associated with a brand that has a positive perception in the marketplace will benefit from that association," he says. "I can't believe that Woolworths wasn't thinking of Apple when it was developing the logo."

There is a fine line whether a logo infringes on another-as well as big money involved. In a famous case decades ago, NBC changed its logo from a peacock to a capital "N." Nebraska Educational Television (ETV) had been using the capital "N" as its logo for two years, and so ETV sued NBC.

The two parties settled: NBC gave ETV some $500,000 worth of used television equipment and another $55,000 in cash, which was a lot at the time, in order to get the rights to the capital "N" logo. Even with the rights, NBC subsequently dropped the logo and brought back its iconic peacock.

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Tom Kaneshige

CIO (US)
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