The late Steve Jobs will forever be associated with Apple (and the ill-fated NeXT), its products, and his contributions to modern computing. That, however, doesn’t mean that the eyes of the law will see things the same way. In Italy, for example, “Steve Jobs”, as a trademark, legally belongs to an Italian fashion company and, try as it might, Apple is unable to say otherwise.
The company, started by brothers Vincenzo and Giacomo Barbato in 2012, makes clothing and fashion accessories, nothing directly related to Apple’s core products. The two, however, were on the hunt for a very marketable name. And what better name than Steve Jobs’ own? And as luck would have it, they discovered that Apple never trademarked the founder’s name. After all, who trademarks a person’s name?
These two did, much to Apple’s chagrin and perhaps embarrassment at not having thought of it first. The Barbatos didn’t even try to hide the association with the tech luminary. Their logo, a large J with a bit at the side and a leaf on top, immediately calls to mind Apple’s own logo.
“Calling to mind”, however, is not a legal ground to invalidate the trademark, according to the court. Unlike an Apple, the letter J isn’t, by nature, edible. So the association between the two is superficial. Unfortunately for Apple, it might have focused too much on that aspect of the trademark rather than on the Steve Jobs name. In other words, it lost.
It’s admittedly an embarrassing, if not odd, defeat for Apple. You can be sure Cupertino will fight tooth and nail for it, if not in Italy then in other jurisdictions. And it better act swiftly, because the brothers plan on growing the Steve Jobs’, the company, business to include electronics, which would then more directly compete with Steve Jobs’, the person, actual products.