November 27, 2012

Apple Buys Lightning Trademark From Harley Davidson

Apple confounded many an iOS user when they released their latest iPads, iPhones and iPods in recent months. After nearly 10 years of using their proprietary, 30-pin connector to charge and sync these early iPods and iOS devices, Apple switched to a new, all-digital proprietary connector. They called it “Lightning,” (which just so happened to pair up well with another proprietary connector of theirs: Thunderbolt) saying this new, all digital connector and cord allowed them to make even slimmer devices. Other benefits of the new Lightning standard have yet to be seen or announced. Today, Patently Apple has discovered that Apple had to pay up to be able use the trademark for “Lightning” in Europe. Interestingly enough, it was Harley Davidson who owned the trademark for this before. Even more interesting, Harley Davidson owned this trademark under class 28, designated for “amusement and game apparatus adapted for use with an external display screen or monitor.”

According to Patently Apple, this trademark transfer may have occurred yesterday, and Harley may still own partial rights to the trademark. Looking into Apple’s filings in the EU Trademark Office, Harley Davidson was granted the trademark in 2005, but because of the classes in which this trademark was designated, may have had to agree to a partial transfer. According to Cnet, Harley Davidson can use the Lightning trademark to cover clothes and outerwear, such as glasses. Apple, on the other hand, may still adhere to the class 28 description of “games and playthings.” Neither Apple nor Harley Davidson have yet to make any official statement about this transfer, and no specific details have been given.

Apple will now share this trademark with Harley Davidson in Europe. The Lightning trademark in the US is still up in the air, it seems. The Lightning Car Company submitted a request for the Lightning trademark in January 2011. A notice for allowance of application was filed in March 2012, but was later cancelled in September when Apple released their new products.

Apple has run into trouble with obtaining trademarks in specific countries before. Most notably, the recent trademark debacle in China over the name “iPad.” Working under the name IP Application Development, Apple purchased the right to the iPad trademark from Proview Technologies in Taiwan for only $55,000. A few months after Apple released the first generation iPad, the struggling and bankrupt Proview sued Apple, saying they didn’t have the rights to use the trademark in China.

Proview was seeking to have iPads banned in China, a ruling that the Chinese courts seemed in favor of. Apple was finally pressured into settling with Proview, paying them $60 million, significantly less than the $400 million Proview had been seeking from the iPad maker. Proview Technology, maker of displays and monitors, had been asking for $400 million to pay back their debtors, which mostly consisted of local banks.

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