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Kiwi inventor's court win rains on Apple's parade

'driPhone' trademark ruled legal in New Zealand

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New Zealand inventor Hayden Crowther has done something Samsung hasn't been able to achieve: comprehensively smack down Apple in court.

Apple's beef with Kiwi Crowther centres on the waterproof phone cases he markets under the name “driPhone”. Crowther tried to trademark that name, but Cupertino took exception claiming it “would be likely to deceive or cause confusion” and saying it “would amount to passing off”, the naughty practice of associating oneself with an entity that hasn't authorised you to do so.

The matter therefore ended up before The Intellectual Property Office of New Zealand (IPONZ), which yesterday handed down a decision in Crowther's favour.

Crowther's arguments included the following:

“My trade mark DRIPHONE is readily distinguishable from Apple’s iPhone trade mark. In particular DRIPHONE does not use ‘i” as a prefix. Additionally, the “I” in DRIPHONE does not refer to the internet or other smart technology. Instead it is part of “Dri” which is a phonetic spelling of “dry” and refers to the fact that DRIPHONE cases are waterproof.”

That argument, and several others, found favour with assistant commissioner of patents and trademarks Jane Glover who knocks out all of Apple's arguments and not only says Crowther's trademark should stand but awarded him costs. Crowther hired a lawyer to help prepare his case, but represented himself before the IPONZ Apple has a right of appeal. He's therefore due $NZ2950 and has the scalp of Apple's lawyer to hang on his virtual mantlepiece.

New Zealand media have approached Apple for comment and received the usual silent treatment. ®

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