October 13, 2010
Trademarks, copyrights, and patents are among the most contentious pieces of law anywhere, and it's very easy to make enemies by swinging your constitutional protections the wrong way.
Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL ) is no stranger to these issues; heck, the company secured a trademark for its own fruity name way back in 1977. It has been on the receiving end of disputes, such as when Cisco Systems (Nasdaq: CSCO ) registered the iPhone name first. These days, Apple keeps busy in the courtroom by filing patent infringement suits against Motorola (NYSE: MOT ) and HTC and then defending against the inevitable countersuits. And just to be different, the company has secured a service mark for the phrase "There's an app for that."
The next time Verizon wants to poke fun at AT&T and its 3G coverage, it may want to stay away from clever turns of phrase like "There's a map for that." Otherwise, Apple's lawyers might come knocking with a subpoena. We Fools are less likely to run into legal trouble for twisting those words thanks to Fair Use laws, but the knowledge of this specialized trademark now hangs over my head. Never mind that "There's an app for that" jumped the shark long ago -- lawyers have itchy trigger fingers sometimes. With that in mind, here's a couple of marketing messages that probably won't fly anymore:
- Starbucks Frappucinos: "Droopy? There's a frap for that."
- Sealy mattresses: "Tired? There's a nap for that."
- Death Row Records: "Angry? There's a rap for that."
- Subway: "Hungry? There's a wrap for that."
- Orkin: "Mice? There's a trap for that."
And so it goes -- acres of creativity laid to waste in a single filing. In Apple's defense, the application was filed last December while the phrase still sounded a little bit fresh. As it stands, I don't think this trademark matters much anymore.
Did I miss your favorite "There's an app" joke? Share the mirth in the comments below.