August 15, 2006 12:05 am

Apple lays legal claim to the word ‘Pod’

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Apple has laid legal claim to the word “Pod,” arguing that other companies that use the word as part of their product names risk infringing the trademark of its popular iPod music player.

The legal campaign, which in recent days has drawn challenges to products with names such as Profit Pod and TightPod, reflects a broader attempt by some of the most successful consumer technology companies to prevent their best-known product names slipping into common useage beyond their control.

This month, Google drew attention to its own long-running battle to defend the trademark in its name when it wrote to the Washington Post to protest the use of the verb “to google,” though examples of similar warning letters date back at least four years.

Lawyers acting for Apple have in recent days written to at least two companies that use the word “Pod” asking them to drop the word from their product names, though the wider extent of the legal challenge remains unclear.

Dave Ellison, whose company, Mach5Products, makes the Profit Pod, said he had been sent a “cease and desist” request by Apple’s lawyers last week, just after receiving trademark recognition for his product name in the US.

In its letter, Apple’s lawyer said the name of the handheld device, an infrared scanner that is used to record activity on arcarde video game machines, was based on a “a POD-formative mark and incorporates a substantial portion of Apple’s IPOD mark.” Among other similiarities alleged by Apple, “both devices receive and transmit data and are used with computers [and] both are used in connection with video games.”

Mr Ellison contested Apple’s claim, arguing that his company’s product was not sold to consumers and that he and his wife, Carolee, had thought up the name around five years ago, before they had heard of the iPod, which was introduced in 2001. “I’m not going to change the name – it’s not like they offered us anything for it,” he said.

Terry Wilson, maker of TightPods, slip-on covers designed to protect electronic products like laptops and MP3 players, said that she had also been challenged by Apple after trying to get trademark protection for her product name. “I’ll change the name if [they] will pay for the expenses of doing so – it’s expensive,” she said.

The success of the iPod has led to widespread adoption of the word “Pod” in relation, for instance in the term podcasting. Companies that have made use of the word in their product or corporate names range from DoPod, a Chinese maker of personal digital assistance, to PodShow, a company that distributes podcasts. An Apple spokesperson could not immediately be reached for comment.

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