What’s in a name?
Lee Roberts makes a shopping cart, content management solution known as ApplePieCart, or more appropriately, he used to. On April 11, 2006, Lee received a note from Apple Computer’s lawyers demanding he stop using a name that might confuse consumers.
Apple Computers, which makes or sells computers, software, music and accessories, uses a red apple with a bite taken out of it as a logo, placing it along side the name of a popular fruit. ApplePieCart, which makes an ecommerce solution aimed at people who already own computers, uses a green apple leaf extending upwards at a 45-degree angle from the name of a popular American dessert item.
At the time of the serving, Apple Computers was embroiled in a trademark case against Apple Records, the record distribution label started by the Beatles. That case was recently settled, and both can use the name Apple without confusing consumers, even though both are technically in the business of music distribution. Apple records, incidentally, uses a green MacIntosh apple as its logo, not to be confused with the Macintosh Apple computer, made by the other Apple, the one that makes computers.
Since he received the letter from Apple Computer’s lawyers, Lee’s life has turned upside down.
He consulted his lawyer who told him he could fight the case for about $500,000 without a guarantee of winning. The other option would be to rename his business. Lee estimated that would cost about $200,000, give or take a small fortune.
He opted for the second choice and has since set out on the long journey of changing his business name from ApplePieCart to MerchantMetrix.
“We’re having to do a new logo and all the identity branding. We need an entire new website. We need to re-polish the software. And then, think about all of the links we have going to our website. All the name recognition, we’re losing that. What would I consider the value of this? I would say in excess of $200K. My attorneys say it will cost me $500K to defend the name, with no guarantee I would win.”
Lee has also stopped advertising his business, citing the confusion the name change and software upgrades will cause new clients. “I had WebProWorld write me to see if I would advertise with them. I haven’t responded yet but I guess they’ll know why I can’t now.” Lee said.
Lee has actually applied for the rights to the name ApplePie Shopping Cart, submitting an application to the US Patent office in June 2005. Last week he received a notice from that office saying the name had been Published for opposition on the second of May, giving “…30 days to notify the US Patent and trademark office of such issue or opposition to the registration of the trademark Applepiecart”.
“I had developed many shopping carts and my wife told me I should make one that was easy to use. She said it should be as easy as making apple pie. After finding out that it takes about 45-minutes to make an apple pie from scratch, we decided that we would call it ApplePie because it was so easy to use.”
Q. “Does it take less than 45-minutes to learn how to use it?”
A. “No, it’s easier than that. It takes about 30-minutes.”
“All of our Video Tutorials have to be redone to”, Lee added, almost as an afterthought.