Apple Australia in two legal battles

In Federal Court, Apple today fought the first of two separate and protracted legal battles, arguing for ownership over the trademark name "Mac Pro" and "MacPro". Next month it will again take on its former reseller, Buzzle Operations.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer and  Suzanne Tindal, Contributor

Apple's Australian division is currently fighting legal action on two fronts, it was revealed today, with one Federal Court trademark action and a separate case resuming next month against its former reseller, Buzzle Operations.


(Credit: CNET.com)

In Federal Court, Apple today continued fighting the first tussle, arguing for ownership over the trademark name "MacPro" with Melbourne-based computer equipment supplier Macpro Computers.

Records from intellectual property agency IP Australia reveal the history of the trademark "Macpro". Apple had attempted to register the names "Macpro" and "Mac Pro" in May 2006, with the names covering a range of computer hardware, software and equipment such as mobile telephones, microprocessors, cables and modems.

However three months later, on 14 August, Apple's claim was opposed by the Melbourne-based computer supplier when its lawyers Blake Dawson filed a notice of opposition on the company's behalf.

Although Macpro Computers had not filed a request to trademark Macpro, it claimed entitlement to it, since it had been actively using it as a trading for a lengthy period. The company was founded in 1983.

On 17 August 2006, Macpro Computers lodged an application for the word Macpro for computer hardware, software and computer consultancy services. The examination of this application has been deferred.

Apple filed an appeal in the Federal Court on 4 March of this year after a decision was met by IP Australia on Apple's application to the Macpro trademark which allowed Apple to use the trademark for some goods and services, but not all which it had requested.

The judge requested in a directions hearing today that information pertaining to the decision which had been made be provided to him so that he could come abreast of the main issues and decide which party was to lay their case before him first.

Macpro Computers staff were unwilling to discuss the matter with ZDNet.com.au while Apple Australia's spokespeople were unable to be contacted at the time of writing.

Apple versus Buzzle, Wily
In a separate, long-running legal battle, Apple Australia will shortly resume its fight against former reseller Buzzle Operations and its liquidator Andrew Wily. The court date for the hearing at the NSW Supreme Court is set for 27 April.

Apple is likely to once again argue its point that it was not responsible for the debt incurred by failed Apple reseller group, Buzzle Operations. Apple had attempted to recoup debts the company had incurred in buying supplies from Apple following its demise in 2001.

Buzzle Operations was comprised of seven separate retailers which banded together in 2000 following the dotcom bust to list the company on the Australian Stock Exchange, hoping to raise $100 million in capital. The group aired its plans on an ABC documentary in 2000.

By March 2001, though, the reseller had gone bust, with Apple alleged to have driven the company's demise by overloading it with Apple stock. Wily, a partner at Armstrong Wily, was appointed as the liquidator in 2001.

In a note to its 2008 financial statement submitted to the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, which showed it earned revenues of $1.6 billion from Australia, Apple acknowledged the upcoming date set for the case to be heard.

Wily and Buzzle Operations, which is still in liquidation, had served Apple with a statement of claim "alleging certain amounts are due to Buzzle by virtue of insolvent trading, voidable transactions and related party unfair preference", Apple Australia reported. The document also revealed that Wily and Buzzle Operations hope to recover $46.6 million from the iconic computer maker, plus damages, interests and legal costs.

The thrust of Buzzle and Wily's legal argument is that Apple had breached Australia's Corporations Act by selling stock to the company while allegedly knowing it was insolvent.

Apple had attempted to remove Wily from the liquidator role and to install KPMG — its own financial auditors — to handle the liquidation; however, in 2003 its attempt was rejected by a NSW Supreme Court judge, according to a report by IT channel publication, Australian Reseller News.

Neither Apple nor Wily responded to ZDNet.com.au's calls.

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