In today’s installment of “words you didn’t know could be trademarked,” we’ll focus in on Apple and its relationship with a motorcycle manufacturer by the name of Harley-Davidson. Apple’s “Lightning” branding for its new dock connector certainly plays nice with the company’s “Thunderbolt” branding, but in new EU Trademark filings discovered by Patently Apple, we’re finding out that the iPod maker had to talk to Harley-Davidson before it could use the word lightning for its products. That’s because Harley-Davidson owns the trademark for lightning in a lot of different areas, including motorcycle parts, video games, and even glasses.
Harley-Davidson’s trademark for the word lightning remains protected until 2013, so if Apple wanted to call its new dock connector Lightning, it was going to have to get Harley-Davidson’s permission first. That’s exactly what happened, with Harley-Davidson granting Apple a “partial transfer” of the trademark. This means that Apple is free to use the trademark, but Harley-Davidson retains some rights to use it with its own products too.
It never really occurred to use that Apple would need to request a trademark transfer, since “lightning” doesn’t seem like one of those terms that companies can trademark. In any case, the transfer was apparently completed over the weekend, so Apple has partial rights to the Lightning trademark from here on out. We’re not sure what’s going to happen when the trademark’s protection ends in 2013, but we’re sure that Harley-Davidson and Apple will be able to reach another agreement when the time comes.
After all, it isn’t as if Apple would need to use the trademark for motorcycle parts, just as we’re assuming that Harley-Davidson isn’t going to use it for iOS dock connectors anytime soon. We’ll have to see how this all pans out in the future, but for now, Apple and Harley-Davidson apparently don’t have any issues with sharing the rights to the trademark. Check out our story timeline below for more on Lightning!