By Jennifer Farley

Apple Claims All Things Apple Shaped

By Jennifer Farley

Woolworths in Australia unveiled a new logo and branding last year. The logo is a stylized W. It’s green and it has a little leaf coming out the top. And it looks a bit like a peeled apple.


Did I mention the new logo looks a little bit like an apple? Apple, the technology company have decided that the new Woolies logo looks a little bit too much like their apple. They have mounted a challenge to try to stop them using their new logo, which is already appearing on products, stores, trucks and the website.

Woolworths applied to IP Australia last year to trademark the new logo as a blanket trademark. This means the logo could go on many different types of product and this is what’s upsetting Apple. If in the future, Woolworths decide to start selling computers, customers could be looking at two different computers with apple shaped logos on them. Apple will now have to convince IP Australia to reject Woolworths’s application to trademark the logo.

The logo was designed by Hulsbosch, one of Australia’s largest branding and design agencies. Mr. Hulsbosch, the designer, has said he believes Apple are taking trademark protection to the the extreme.

Based on this logic, they would have to take action against every fruit seller.

A similar situation occurred previously when Apple and New York City got into a ding dong over the GreeNYC logo.

It seems Apple filed their objection to Woolworths application in March of this year, but the news only came out in the past two weeks when Woolworths spoke to The Age.


While there are some similarities between them, I think it would take a severe blow to the head to get these two logos mixed up.

What do you think? Are Apple being bullies or just looking after the equity they’ve built up in their brand?

  • anon

    Haha, this is one hella funny thing.
    But seriously, claiming every appleshaped trademark.
    Good luck with that, but I have to say that it is pretty stupid to do so. Just let the other people have apple shaped logos too.

  • FFS

    This is just getting silly. Seriously, it’s time to fight back against lawyers who are quite frankly making it utterly impossible for humanity to advance in to something better. Have these guys seriously got nothing better to do? It’s just like Sun Microsystems going after java communities (their most active supporters) because they used the word ‘Java’ in their names. And then the RIAA, famous for suing their customers. What a bunch of muppets.

  • Yes, Apple is just being a bully. It’s disgusting that they think they can have the apple all to themselves. Even if Woolworths wanted to sell computers one day, who would get the two confused? Only Apple.

  • Just_Jen

    This is absolute nonsense. Apple is turning into the Microsoft of old…absolutley stupid.

  • What the others have said.

  • Swivelgames

    Maybe that’s it… Maybe the people up at Apple raising the issue did get a severe blow to the head? It’d explain a couple of other things as well…

    Get over it Apple! It’s a logo incorporating an APPLE. Oh well!

  • Yes, it’s ridiculous.

    A moron in a hurry, anyone?

  • Roger

    Dont forget that Apple got into it’s own barney with apple records over moving into the music business.

    I suspect the lawyers have told them that they are required to “agressively” protect their trademarks, a sad sign of the outdated and innovativation-hostile IP policies that are currently in place.

  • Ketira

    Even I can see the difference between Apple’s logo and Woolworths’. I also think that the computer giant is being a bully; produce (which seems to be all that Woolworths does) isn’t even in Job’s domain.

    Now if the two logos looked alike (for argument’s sake) – kind of what Disney has against anyone using their characters without permission – then yes, I’d see why they’d react. But this? No way.

    To Steve Jobs: Perhaps you are like Gates after all, hm?

  • Aaron Larson

    Companies jealously guard their trademarks because there’s a big risk in taking any other approach. Without a challenge, Apple would have to deal with its inaction as a precedent. With the challenge, it becomes less likely either that in the future a company will attempt to register a mark resembling Apple’s, and it isn’t possible for such a company to argue that Apple’s silence on the Woolworth’s mark is an effective concession that their own proposed mark is also non-infringing.

  • siva

    Apple is turning into the Microsoft of old…absolutley stupid.

  • Marco

    To many lawyers that have nothing to do. Same thing in so much big companies.
    It is the same on T-Mobile with its color.

  • Jason

    Rediculous, it looks nothing like the Apple logo! It clearly is an apple in the shape of a W.

  • Niubi

    Very dumb of Apple. What next? eBay sues DubLi for having similar colors on their logo? Personally, I think it’s just lawyers looking to make a quick easy buck and get ‘known’. The world would be a much better place without lawyers!

  • I do understand that it’s important for companies to closely guard their trademark. It is such a vital element of their brand identity which they don’t want other organisations to mimic. But how ridiculous. It’s pretty obvious that nobody is going to get these two logos mixed up. As much as I love Apple products, I do think they are getting a bit precious about their ‘apple’. They are such a huge cooperation with so much money that if they do win this case then it will definitely discourage any new branding for other large businesses from including anything remotely apple-shaped, which seems to me rather sad actually. The apple is a natural object. Apple can’t ‘claim’ it as their own as they didn’t invent it. Although maybe they think they did.

  • Raena, when you see an example like that, you can see how it easy it could be for the punters to get mixed up. LOL.

  • nachenko

    Please always remember that the lawyers that make these lawsuits happen always get paid by the customer, no matter they win or not.

    At an absurd hundreds of dollars / hour rate, they have a big fat motivation to keep pushing absurd lawsuits again and again.

    Now, ask yourself this question: “What are 1000 lawyers at the bottom of a river?”

  • hairybob

    Woolworths are one of Australia’s biggest corporate bullies. They are NOT some poor little Australian business being picked on by some nasty multinational!!! Together with Coles, they enjoy a duopoly position in the retail grocery market in Australia – forcing many of their suppliers out of business with what can only be described as unfair trade practices. They are listed on the ASX (Australian Stock Exchange) and have a market capitalisation of approx AUD 35 Billion. Therefore, they are big enough to know EXACTLY what they are doing!

    In my mind, their trademark appears sufficiently similar to the Apple trademark to warrant the action taken by Apple.

    It is perhaps important to remember that, when registering a trademark, there exists no requirement to register it across every available class. The fact that Woolworths have chosen to register their mark for “IT and computer-related activities” places the onus on them to establish that their logo would not mislead a reasonable person. Currently, they sell groceries, fruit and vegetables. If they don’t intend to leverage the Apple brand inappropriately, then they can simply withdraw their application for coverage of the class relating to IT and computer-related activities. That way, there would exist no possibility for mistake!!!

    Make no mistake, Woolworth’s are a greedy and belligerent company that are not worthy of sympathy!!!!

  • Hi hairybob. You’re right, it is important to have another perspective and as you say Woolies are not some shrinking violet. The story only came out when Woolies talked to the Age even though Apple file their objection months ago, so there is undoubtedly plenty of spin from their side too.

    I thought it was an amusing story because I think the logos look very different and that there would be little chance of mixing them up.

  • NetNerd85

    B@tch, Please.

  • Jasconius

    Woolworths is something entirely different in America.

  • Anonymous

    Watch out Very Fine juice!

  • randywehrs

    hairybob – Even if Woolworth’s is downright evil, they still have a right to trademark their own logo. If their name was apple and they too sold computers, that would be a different story, but they’re Woolworth’s. This reminds me of when No Doubt, the band, tried to Trademark their name but couldn’t because it’s a common phrase. Here’s an interesting perspective from the Trademark Registration blog. It’s ok, Apple, no one is going to get you confused with Woolworth’s. Great wiki reference, raena, moron in a hurry.

  • Lain

    They should have put the leaf on the other side.

  • Jenn

    Sounds like what Monster cable was doing a few months back…They were taking action against ALL companies that had “Monster” in their name. It only stopped when Monster mini golf rebelled.

  • Someone should remind Apple the computer company of a tiny matter involving Apple the music company, whose name they just took and used, and the legal case that gave them permission to use it as long as they stayed out of the music business. Oh, and remind them of that iPod thing – what is it used for again??? And that iTunes softwar, is that a music thing too?

    (And as for taking Xerox’s gui interface, icons, and mouse control and calling it theirs, then having a go at MS for windows using icons and a mouse in their gui…)

    Wollworths should tell them to get lost.

  • McDonalds (the burger place) is notorious for going after people with businesses named McDonald, MacDonald, or anything remotely close. These big companies just get so powerful, they can do whatever they want. Who could possibly defend themselves against McDonalds, who has virtually limitless money to spend on attorney’s fees?

  • Chris

    If Apple doesn’t drop the court case then Woolworths can just stop selling Itunes vouchers.. Apple get heaps of money from Woolworths!!

  • Avio

    Whatever … but i don’t think Woolworths logo is any good!!!!

  • Calvin

    If in the future, Woolworths decide to start selling computers, customers could be looking at two different computers with apple shaped logos on them.

    Who says Woolworths gonna sell Apple computer? They are gonna sell Windows PC!

  • Joe Simhon

    Since Woolworth themselves are a big company and they may or may not be doing the “right” thing when it comes to registering the trademark, I think that Apple is doing this for other reasons than whats on the surface. For 1, they are getting publicity over it and probably more so in Australia thus reassuring their image to specifically not get confused with Woolworth, even if the objection falls through. And 2, any other company out there that even thinks to create a similar logo to Apple will think twice because of this issue. So for Apple this attempt, no matter how futile, is a win around the table. They get publicity and awareness in Australia, they reaffirm their brand and warn others from doing the same thing, and they possibly could stop them from using it.

  • step

    looks more like a Greek symbol than an apple

  • Jeremy

    Is apple becoming the new Microsoft?? hmmm…

  • Captain Conundrum

    Maybe the world’s major religions should bring a class-action defending the ‘original’ creator’s IP rights to the apple. They could make a mint and force the biggest industrialists to settle out-of-court by cancelling third world debt. If I ruled the world! te-he.

    Just imagine: The Pope, The Ayatollah, and The Dalai Lama all racking up to post a deposition for Steve Jobs!

  • Benji+

    I think that you, yourself, Jennifer have put a bit of a spin on this story. The important part that you could have better emphasized was the fact that Woolworth’s has applied for a blanket trademark with their  logo, which, as hairybob pointed out above, is I’m sure what Apple is objecting to. As a grocer, there’s no need for Woolie’s to potentially brand computers, electronics, software, etc. with their W. It’s a case where Woolworth’s Intellectual Property department was extremely sloppy, and Apple has a legitimate claim.
    It’s exactly this kind of unnecessary overregistering on Woolworth’s part that is totally discouraged in the IP field. And if left unchecked by Apple, who knows whether the legal despots at Woolworth’s wouldn’t soon be causing trouble for Apple’s brand in Australia. Sometimes it’s the locals who challenge the multi-national corporations, forcing them to disrupt their brand for one nation, often when the trademark conflict is similarly not really an issue of confusion, as is the case with this one. I would have to agree with Raena about it taking a ‘moron in a hurry’ to confuse these two apples.
    I think things got ridiculous when Apple challenged New York City over their apple-shaped logo, but, while I don’t know the details of this case, it sounds like Apple is just making a prudent and standard IP protection move here. So labeling your article “Apple Claims All Things Apple-Shaped” is a bit untasteful in my opinion. Why is Sitepoint even bringing up Apple’s branding practices in the first place? With all due respect, this could have been an informative case-study on trademark design issues, but as it sits the article is just tabloid gossip.

  • Caleb Withers

    Apple should get over it. If woolworths starts selling computers, then go ahead, let them mount their challenge, but otherwise, they should keep their trademarks in their pant.

  • Paper Gangsta

    Whatever, I hate Apple. Be it a fruit or a gadget!

  • ledlighting

    Interesting article, I couldn’t care less what happens to woolworths, but i think apple is being a little sensitive.

    LED Lighting Australia

  • Just another reason to hate apple
    next they will be filing suit against farmers and grocery stores for selling apples

  • Theyre not claiming that Woolworths can’t use the logo; they’re just saying that Woolworths can’t register it as a blanket trademark across all industries. And they’re absolutely right to object.

  • On first look I didn’t get the connection – just thought it was a fancy “W” – but put next to the real Apple logo – I can see it’s an apple shape now but to say it infringes their trademark is stretching it beyond stretching !! Apple, are bully boys in black t-shirts – who sell far too expensive hardware and software !! (even if they have cool designs).
    Give up Apple – It’s says WOOLWORTHS in the LOGO – not much difference then ?

  • Granny Smith should sue Apple Inc!

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