While Apple is busy fighting Proview over the iPad trademark in China, it has lost a separate trademark battle in Europe: Wapple, the mobile web developers, have won a suit filed by Apple over its name.
The suit, originally filed in 2007, claimed that Wapple was trading on Apple’s brand association and name, although Wapple had filed for a trademark on "Wapple" in 2006.
Wapple, which has been around since 2003, and incorporated in 2004 – well before the smartphone explosion – has long said that its name was wordplay on the WAP protocol, which was the main format for delivering mobile content before the rise of 3G networks and other protocols like HTML5.
The case went right up to the Intellectual Property Office in the UK, which today made the ruling in Wapple’s favor in three separate filings, numbers 95786, 95787 and 95890.
Wapple's words on the decision are ironic, going as they do against as iconic and groundbreaking a company as Apple:
“The case is a victory for truth over tactics. Self-belief is always critical when establishing and growing any technology business and even more so when you are early to market as we were,” noted Anne Thomas, co-founder and COO of Wapple. “The action taken by Apple Inc. to oppose our trade mark [sic] has tested our resolve and we are delighted with this outcome.”
Wapple works with a number of third parties on mobile web services and its customers include two of Apple’s big competitors, Microsoft and Google. No one in Wapple's experience, the company notes, has ever confused the two companies.
Although Apple has asserted intellectual property rights over some of the industry's biggest players -- including numerous lawsuits against Android-based developers Samsung, HTC and Motorola -- it has also gone after much smaller companies, but not always with a successful effect. One case in Spain last year saw Apple losing a design patent suit against NT-K, a small Android tablet maker.