Swiss watchmaker Swatch wins latest trademark battle with Apple

A top Swiss court on Thursday handed the watchmaker Swatch victory in a trademark dispute with US technology giant Apple – the latest in a series of legal disputes between the two firms.

Swiss watchmaker Swatch wins latest trademark battle with Apple
Swatch Group CEO Nick Hayek with the Zero One wristwatch in 2014. File photo: AFP

In the current case, Apple had alleged the Swiss company’s ‘Tick different’ slogan was too similar to the US company’s ‘Think different’ slogan of the 1990s.

Apple originally filed an objection with the Swiss Federal Institute of Intellectual Property, but that organisation turned down the complaint.

Read also: How luxury watchmakers are gearing up for Brexit

The US company then took the case to the St-Gallen based Federal Administrative Court.

To have a chance of winning its case against Swatch, Apple had to prove that the famous slogan – the related TV commercial won an Emmy for Outstanding Commercial in 1998 – had more than 50 percent recognition in Switzerland.

However, the Federal Administrative Court ruled Apple had not provided sufficient evidence that this was the case and found in Swatch’s favour.

The evidence for awareness of the slogan in Switzerland consisted of just several articles on Apple in Swiss broadsheet NZZ.

This dispute was just the latest in a series of legal confrontations between the two companies.

In 2007, Swatch, which is headed up by charismatic businessman Nick Hayek, trademarked the term ‘iSwatch’ before Apple was able to register the term ‘iWatch. 

The Swiss watchmaker also trademarked the expression ‘One more thing’, which was made famous by Apple co-founder Steve Jobs.

Apple has had other legal problems in Switzerland. In 2012, it reportedly paid 20 million Swiss francs (€17.8 million) to Swiss Federal Railways to avoid going to court over its use of the design of the Swiss railway clock in its i06 operating system.

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Thirteen in court over death threats to French teenager after her social media tirades against Islam

Thirteen people go on trial in Paris on Thursday on charges of online harassment and in some cases death threats against a teenage girl who posted social media tirades against Islam, which saw her placed under police protection and forced to change schools.

Thirteen in court over death threats to French teenager after her social media tirades against Islam
Mila's lawyer Richard Malka has been involved in several high-profile freedom of expression trials, including the Charlie Hebdo trials. Photo: Martin Bureau/AFP

The  ‘Affaire Mila’ sparked outrage and renewed calls to uphold free-speech rights after the 16-year-old was subjected to a torrent of abuse on social media after her expletive-laden videos went viral last year.

“The Koran is filled with nothing but hate, Islam is a shitty religion,” Mila said in the first post on Instagram in January 2020.

READ ALSO What is the Affaire Mila and why is it causing outrage?

A second one in November, this time on TikTok, came after the jihadist killing of high school teacher Samuel Paty over his showing of controversial cartoons of the prophet Mohamed to students.

The reactions were swift and virulent.

“You deserve to have your throat cut,” read one, while another warned “I’m going to do you like Samuel Paty”.

Mila had to be placed under police protection along with her family in Villefontaine, a town outside Lyon in southeast France, and was forced to change schools.

Even President Emmanuel Macron came to her defence, saying that “the law is clear. We have the right to blaspheme, to criticise and to caricature religions.”

Investigators eventually identified thirteen people from several French regions aged 18 to 30, and charged them with online harassment, with some also accused of threatening death or other criminal acts.

“This is a trial against the digital terror that unleashes sexist, homophobic and intolerant mobs against a teenager,” Mila’s lawyer Richard Malka told AFP ahead of the trial, which opens on Thursday afternoon.

“This digital lynching must be punished,” he said.

But defence lawyers have argued that the 13 on trial are unfairly taking the rap as scapegoats for thousands of people taking advantage of the anonymity offered by social media platforms.

“My client is totally overwhelmed by this affair,” said Gerard Chemla, a lawyer for one of the accused. “He had a fairly stupid instant reaction, the type that happens every day on Twitter.”

The accused face up to two years in prison and fines of €30,000 for online harassment.

A conviction of death threats carries a maximum penalty of three years in prison – two people previously convicted of death threats against Mila have received prison terms.

Mila, now 18, is to publish a book this month recounting her experience, titled “I’m paying the price for your freedom.”