Apple begins trademark trial over 'pod'

A video projector maker is fighting a legal challenge from Apple, which has a long track record of legal actions meant to keep sole use of the term in the iPod maker's hands
Written by Karen Friar, Contributor

Apple has gone to trial to stop a start-up using the word 'pod' in a product name.

The legal dispute centres on San Francisco-based Sector Labs' use of the name 'Video Pod' for the video projector it is developing. On Monday, Apple filed an 873-page document with the US trademark appeals body outlining why it should have sole rights to 'pod', according to reports.

The iPod maker, which launched its challenge in 2007, has maintained throughout that allowing Sector Labs to use the word would cause confusion among consumers.

"This is a straightforward case of an applicant who intentionally selected an applied for a mark confusingly similar to Apple's famous iPod mark in order to capitalise on the fame and goodwill of Apple's mark," the company said in a motion for summary judgment filed in January 2009 with the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).

Sector Labs, which also sells a temperature-sensitive light for kitchen taps, has spent the past three years defending its product name against Apple, which has a history of legal actions over the use of 'pod' and other trademarks.

The fight is about more than allowing small businesses to use the word 'pod' in their product names, Sector Labs' lawyer Ana Christian told Wired.com.

"I'm trying to look at it on the big picture," Christian said. "What I'm hoping to do with this case is to really reach a lot broader of an audience and make it so entrepreneurs and small businesses can use the English language as they see fit in branding their products."

Apple's filing on Monday is the first stage in the trial, which will be conducted entirely on paper. Like Apple, Sector Labs has 30 days to gather its evidence and is scheduled to file its testimony by 18 November. The USPTO tribunal make its decision after receiving all submissions, the last of which is expected in January 2011.

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