A lot of attention has been garnered by the high profile Apple vs Samsung case in which Apple has come out victorious. The issue involved several disputes over whether Samsung was infringing on Apple’s patented functions or trade dress. For the details of the trial, see the Guardian’s guide to the key issues.
The Jury may have favoured Apple – but what do the people think? A recent poll by market research agency YouGov actually shows Samsung overtaking Apple in terms of positive sentiment two weeks after the verdict. Forbes also reported that, according to research by Media Measurement who looked to Facebook and Twitter to assess people’s opinions about the two companies, the majority of people had taken to criticising Apple rather than Samsung – with many commenting that the case demonstrated Apple’s desire to stamp out the competition. As Forbes stated ‘Worse, for Apple, the reaction against the brand is coming from its own fan base’.
This negative reaction against Apple continued further following its new product release. Although this might have fallen under the wayside in comparison to the announcement of the iPhone 5, the new iPod Nano has also spurred a number of comments online. Many of these comments have noted the similarities between the new iPod Nano and the Nokia Lumia with numerous people wondering whether this will lead to yet another court case (see here, here and here)
Apple’s decision to prevent Samsung using a design similar to its iPhone and iPad products seems to have made people want to see Apple slip up and demonstrate it too can be guilty of copying. Perhaps Apple is not as innovative as it claims to be. Whether or not there is any real issue between the seventh generation iPod Nano and the Nokia Lumia is beside the point- the point is the reaction in the wake of the lawsuit.
Watts Martin argues that Apple’s desire to create products that are iconic and instantly recognisable justifies the company’s determination to protect the trade dress on its products, which is definitely something to consider. As an IP lawyer, I believe in the importance of protecting your innovations and your designs- but when does this go too far? When does this actually have a damaging effect on your brand?
Brand identity is fundamentally important, and as much as the products are important when people are looking to purchase something- the opinion people form about a brand has a huge impact on whether people will buy the products it produces. Apple has managed to have a reputation for innovation and design and as discussed in previous blogs is one of the top brands in the world. But what will the impact of being viewed as stopping innovation have on its brand value?
It has been reported that Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple, is far from happy with the outcome of the case, stating ‘I wish everybody would just agree to exchange all the patents so everybody can build the best forms they want to by using everybody’s technology’
The fact that even Wozniak seems to not agree with the dispute further begs the question whether Apple’s pursuit is a bit too aggressive.
This case is a prime example to demonstrate the need for an IP strategy for your brand. IP is important to protect your brand- but you should identify how you want to approach IP infringement and similar situations in your brand strategy so it fits with your whole brand identity.
Apple is known for being different. Take its widely celebrated ‘1984’ ad , which portrays Apple as representing freedom against a totalitarian Big Brother-like state. This image seems to have now been turned on its head which is particularly demonstrated through the sheep-like presentation of Apple’s most dedicated fans in Samsung’s new video ad.
Apple does have a very avid and loyal fan base, so I am not trying to declare here that Apple’s brand image has been completely damaged- but I am more using this as an example to show how every action, even down to how you handle your Intellectual Property disputes can influence how people perceive your brand – people spot the inconsistencies and therefore it is important to strive for a consistent brand image and to leave nothing uncovered.
At Azrights, our approach to branding and IP is holistic where we ensure that IP is not simply one part of your business, but aligned with your brand as a whole.
Whether or not Apple has gone too far or was simply protecting its iconic design is still up for debate-but what is clear is that everything you do can and does affect your brand image and so must be taken into consideration.