August 15, 2006 10:37 AM PDT

Apple: iPod means our pod

Following Google's insistence that media outlets shouldn't be using the term "Googling," Apple Computer has become similarly protective over the word "pod."

The Cupertino, Calif.-based company has sent cease-and-desist letters to at least two companies that include the word "pod" in their product titles, in connection with its iPod digital-music players.

Mach5products.com, which sells a device for collecting data from vending machines called Profit Pod, received one of the letters. TightPod, which manufactures laptop-protecting covers, got another.

Apple asked both companies to rename their products, arguing that they infringe on its iPod trademark.

Sarah Wright, intellectual-property solicitor at law firm Olswang, said Apple's letters are not unusual. The Mac maker may not expect or intend to take the matter all the way to court, she said.

"It's common practice for big-brand owners to send letters like this...If they don't police their brand properly and ensure that trademarks that are too similar to their brands don't get on the register, it makes it more difficult to enforce their rights against third parties," she said.

A blog on sister site ZDNet News posted what purports to be a letter from Apple's lawyers to Carolee and Dave Ellison, who run Mach5products. The letter reads: "We believe there is confusing similarity between Apple's iPod mark and the Profit Pod mark. Both devices receive and transmit data, and are used with computers, both are used in connection with video games, and both have other similar components. Moreover, it has not gone unnoticed that, like Apple's iPod device, the Profit Pod product is a small, flat, round-cornered rectangular device with a display screen."

Mach5products also applied for a patent on the name of its product in 2004, an action Apple requested the company rescind in its letter.

Wright said the trademark filing may have been the catalyst for Apple's move. "Often, people think they must get a trademark," she said. "Sometimes they're better off not getting one and acquiring rights through trading...and avoid getting into these kind of scrapes."

TightPod has also been instructed to abandon a trademark application it had filed to cover the TightPod in relation to MP3 players, with Apple once again citing possible confusion with its iPod.

Terry Wilson, who makes and sells TightPods, has responded by offering to remove the reference to MP3 players or for Apple to pay half the cost of rebranding efforts. Wilson is also considering going to court over the matter.

Apple did not respond to requests for comment.

This is not the first time the company has used legal means to protect its iPod trademark. Apple sued a German company over its Spodradio product earlier this year.

Jo Best of Silicon.com reported from London.

See more CNET content tagged:
trademark, Mac maker, Apple Computer, Apple iPod, letter

57 comments

Join the conversation!
Add your comment
ipod yes, pod no
The term pod has been used with many products by many companies, especially in the photography and video industry for tripods, mono-pods, clamp-pods, etc. I can see Apple having some claim to the use of "iPod" but it seems a stretch that they can claim the more generic pod after so much past use.

thepod.ca also apparently trademarked "pod".
Posted by slewisma (11 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Well come to think of it
Man i never knew that my laptop manafature would get sued by Apple. My laptop "receive and transmit data" (WiFi), its "used with computers" (aka Network), and on top of that "are used in connection with video games" (Playing Games). Man that is pure bull seriosuly, you can say pod in anything. Like if I were to say im gonna go to my Escape Pod (not saying I have one), what would I get sued. Why are they sueing them now? Is it beacuse Ipod sales are Down I sence a second benifit to this!!! any one else.....
Posted by Shadowfire267 (2 comments )
Link Flag
Microsoft tried to trademark "windows" (small "w")
How many (non-technology) companies use the term "windows" in
thier product materials??

Audacious.
Posted by technewsjunkie (1265 comments )
Reply Link Flag
"pod is a Dictionary term...not a TM
Apple is being rediculous. Next thing you know they will send C&D letters to farmers for marketing "peas in a pod." Just a bunch of corporate lawyers trying to justify their existance.
Posted by Methuss (101 comments )
Reply Link Flag
no, it's just business
If they don't come down on stuff like this the trademark will get watered down to the point that they will lose it. It's just the way business works. There's nothing special about this -- it goes on thousands of times a day with thousands of companies, however we happen to be hearing about this one because iPods are trendy.
Posted by tipper_gore (74 comments )
Link Flag
So is Apple
&and yet Apple Corps successfully sued Apple in the 80s and
90s. A words presence in the dictionary doesnt mean it cant be
trademarked.
Posted by the Otter (247 comments )
Link Flag
pod is a Dictionary term
Well spotted!
Posted by Tui Pohutukawa (366 comments )
Link Flag
CNET Sucks
Give me a break with this nonsense. It's an iPod
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.techknowcafe.com/content/view/627/43/" target="_newWindow">http://www.techknowcafe.com/content/view/627/43/</a>
so get over it.
Posted by (156 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Beg your poden?
Good luck, Apple. I don't see much luck in copyrighting 'pod' and trying to sue anyone for using the term. That's a good way to kill off all your accessory partners for making iPod accessories- whoops, I meant 'personal music devices made by a certain Cupertino, CA company we cannot name'.

I remember when Apple tried to copyright 'Apple' and sued apple growers in Washington state. That didn't get far either.

It's much easier to welcome and help companies out with the use of the name than to fight it. It's that sort of attitude that will drive people to the Zume or other devices instead.
Posted by Vegaman_Dan (6683 comments )
Reply Link Flag
My camera's got a triPOD..!!
Dare I say in public that my camera has a triPOD..?!?!
Posted by imacpwr (456 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I'm in real trouble then,
I have two tripods!!!!!!

What a load of Horse Hockey!

I'm glad I bought my wife teh Sansa media player. She loves it and Apple has nothing to do with it.
Posted by Sboston (498 comments )
Link Flag
"i-POD" is indees an extraordinary marketing success
I don't her anyone in CASUAL CONVERSATION saying I "Zen"-ed
it, or "X-Boxed it". But they are using "Pod" for ALL MANNER of
news and audio downloading.

"PodCasting" is ubiquitous, not "MP3-ing".

"pod" has become a term for mobil and media technology and a
"lifestyle" designation due to it's pop culture popularity.

BRANDING is worth something.
Posted by technewsjunkie (1265 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Oh please
What a Microsoft-esque move...
Posted by waterspider (23 comments )
Reply Link Flag
No, this is more general
Every company needs to do this.
Sad but true. Otherwise there is no point in the TM.
Posted by gconrads (11 comments )
Link Flag
Sue the whales
I've heard they travel in pods. I think it's high time they stopped that nonsense.

Apple legal team - GO!
Posted by Christopher Hall (1205 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Line 6 Pod predates the iPod
This is an effects unit for guitarist and bass players.

Since they are both music related Line 6 should sue Apple over it just on principle.

I guess Line 6 has more class than they do.
Posted by slim-1 (229 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Class maybe...
I own a couple line 6 pods. Quite good gear, but it is not clear whether or not Line 6 has relevant TM's regarding the "pod" designation. Also, the L6 Pod, is a great example of why Apple does in fact need to do this. TM rulings are not always a matter of who was there first, but in many cases a TM ruling has to do with Market presence, and efforts to protect.

For example: John Doe might have taken a TM out on "Mickey Mouse" in 1910, but if he hasn't done anything to protect his TM while some 50+ years later Disney has become the "Mickey Mouse" we all know about, then John Doe's TM is of very little value.

In the end few legal matters have to do with class, and I suspect that Steve Jobs isn't personally behind any specific attempts to protect their marketspace other than generally approving the legal methods needed to do so.
Posted by gconrads (11 comments )
Link Flag
Line 6 wouldnt sue Apple&
They use Apple products quite extensively.
Posted by the Otter (247 comments )
Link Flag
PODDY MOUTH
They didn't beat

HAL...HAL open the POD bay doors.
Posted by fastfred1 (13 comments )
Link Flag
They think people are a bunch of fools....
Look at this device first <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.mach5products.com/profit/PROFIT%20main.htm" target="_newWindow">http://www.mach5products.com/profit/PROFIT%20main.htm</a>

and now read this:

"We believe there is confusing similarity between Apple's iPod mark and the Profit Pod mark. Both devices receive and transmit data, and are used with computers, both are used in connection with video games, and both have other similar components. Moreover, it has not gone unnoticed that, like Apple's iPod device, the Profit Pod product is a small, flat, round-cornered rectangular device with a display screen."

Do you think this device is profiting from iPod's populatiry? Do you think this device will eat away iPod's market share? This is so rediculus. Apple can try all it wants.. it's difficult to win this case. I think they are wasting their time and money here
Posted by cary1 (924 comments )
Reply Link Flag
hmm
Well I must say that the Profit Pod deos not look portable at all. The display is dinky, no control wheel, can't play music at all....

Sheesh Apple!
Posted by Sboston (498 comments )
Link Flag
Am I missing something?
What does the iPod have to do with video games? And how could something which is nothing more than a wireless digital counter be confused with an iPod?
Posted by DaClyde (96 comments )
Link Flag
omg!!
When I followed th elink to the site of the ProfitPod I was SO TOTALLY CONFUSED!!!

Was I looking at an Apple product or some other kind of gizmo? I really couldn't be sure if this was an iPod knock off or what! I wish I could have looked for where the headphones plugged in and tried out the iTunes integration!

I really HOPE AND PRAY that MS really does make a good player (lol Ive started seeing designs for other companies new players too and am excited!) as well as offering to buy my music out from the ProfitPod.. ahem.. I mean my iPOd (see I still confused those two...NOT!) I am so tired of authorized computers being able to be used, not being able to put MY MUSIC I PAID FOR from iTunes onto other devices WIHTOUT LOOSING QUALITY due to the decompression and then recompression...

Apple's days are limited (Once the iPOd sales begin to falter what'll hold up the rest of the company then?) and I think they are beginning to see reality. So what do they do the only thing they can... sue people to try to build up a defense that they have ALWAYS been protective of their market and devices so as competitors begin to take their market share they can have a 'history' defense.
Posted by The user with no name (259 comments )
Link Flag
Oh, yeah...
I would definitely mistake the Profit Pod for an ipod.....NOT!
Posted by botherfree59 (1 comment )
Link Flag
This is a must.
Every company that has trademarks has to show a reasonable effort to protect it's mark, otherwise the courts can say that the scope of their TM has declined due to their own lack of policing.

This has more to do with legal issues than with Apple in particular.
Posted by gconrads (11 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Just how the system works (?)
I didn't say it was efficient, correct, or even smart.

If you take a closer look at it, it is all about lawyers making
business for themselves. If you want a trademark you have to hire
lawyers to get one and more lawyers to keep one.

I blame the lawyers!! Nine times out of ten it's their fault anyway.
Posted by sbwinn (216 comments )
Reply Link Flag
a-greed
The only reasonable conclusion that can be made from this article has been stated above.
Posted by gconrads (11 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Question?
Question, does that mean that every printed , audio and video article with the word "pod" in any form, from the dawn of time, be re-edited and contain "Trade Mark Apple Computer Inc."

How low can one go?
Posted by heystoopid (691 comments )
Reply Link Flag
zen nano 2 years before ipod nano
Creative had a "Zen Nano" on the market about 2 years before the "IPod Nano"!
Isn't this more blatant a copyright infringement than using the term "pod"?
Posted by dahnb (49 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Yeah, but...
After Creative assumes room temperature later this year who will
care anyway?
Posted by lkrupp (1608 comments )
Link Flag
clue in the headline
Saw a headline in the UK that iPods ( mentioned by name ) were to be used by the terrorists there to detonate stuff. Maybe Apple will sue the terrorists. ROTFLMAO
Posted by gggg sssss (2285 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Who Sues Who
Apple, Apple, Apple. Didn't I just read a short while ago of a "Pod" company being sued for copyright violation from the old time rock group "The Beatles", for infringing on their logo? My, my, how things do turn around, now the big "Pod" is calling all the little "Pods" black.
Posted by Lyricraider (11 comments )
Reply Link Flag
lest you forget...
Do you remember the "Lindows" vs. "Windows" lawsuit? Guess who won that one? The big boy with the heavy pockets!
Posted by alaaji (7 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Good Point
Does MS have a patent on the word "Windows"? Just wondering.........
Posted by daveworld (123 comments )
Link Flag
they were competing in the same market
Ther are both OS and Lindows had the look and feel of Windows. A person can install Lindows on his PC in place of Windows... but in iPod's case, the two products have no similarity except that they are both digital devices

But I agree, the word 'Windows' should not be patented. For same reason, they call it 'Blu-Ray' and not 'Blue-Ray'
Posted by cary1 (924 comments )
Link Flag
My Trademark is...
My Trademark is I or i, so maybe 'I' should send a letter to Apple, requsting that they change the Ipod name to something else.
Posted by idsantos (92 comments )
Reply Link Flag
more than what is in a name
The story commented that one of the companies that was told to
cease and desist, had a product that strongly resembled an ipod
in shape, color and some features. Perfectly reasonable if you
ask me.
Also, it mentioned that companies had to go to lengths to
defend their murchandise, copyrights and trademarks or tings
get more difficult later in the day - maybe when someone really
does a like for like ipod rip off.
Finally, WRT the Zen "Nano", I think that copyrighting a SI unit of
measure (nano) might be a little difficult. Nano means
0.000000001. It would be like trying to copyright micro or mega
or giga. The courts would laugh at you.
Posted by yikes31 (71 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I don't see how "Pod" can be protected.
The word "pod" is a pretty common one in English. I wonder if
Apple will try to forbid the use of "tripod" in camera accessories. Or
perhaps Corel should look into the use of "Pro" in Apple's product
names, since Corel owns the "Paint Shop Pro" name...

Just joking ;-)
Posted by k0ssi (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Re: I don't see how "POD" can be protected
They all do it. They do it for legal reasons, but sometimes it appears to go overboard.

I remember seeing a news story on how McDonald's files lawsuites regularly against people using the "McDonald's" name. One was some high society guy over the UK or something. Lord McDonald (?) and he was taking them to court. Don't know how it ever worked out.

Charles R. Whealton
Charles Whealton @ pleasedontspam.com
Posted by chuck_whealton (521 comments )
Link Flag
Not a Big Deal
To any major company letters like this are nothing more than routine. Lego has been fighting a battle for over a decade to protect their rights to the word "Lego". Google has been in the news in the last week for this same kind of thing.

What you have to realize is that once a word comes into common use a company loses nearly all rights to it. That is why Apple, Google, and any "hot" company is going to be proactive in protecting their rights.
Posted by asmoore (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
iPod Backwords spells, everyone togther!
DOPi, ok, back to work!
Posted by mainca (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
iPod Backwards spells, everyone togther!
DOPi, ok, back to work!
Posted by mainca (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

Join the conversation

Add your comment

The posting of advertisements, profanity, or personal attacks is prohibited. Click here to review our Terms of Use.

What's Hot

Discussions

Shared

RSS Feeds

Add headlines from CNET News to your homepage or feedreader.