This week Apple Computer, Inc. (Apple) released a bevy of new products including a newly designed, multi-touch mouse, monikered “Magic Mouse“. Interestingly, Apple just recently lost a trademark dispute with Man & Machine, Inc. (Man & Machine) over the “Mighty Mouse” trademark, which happened to be the mark used for Apple’s previous mouse product introduced in 2005. Man & Machine was using the same mark since 2004 to identify a line of “rugged, hygienic, waterproof mice” used in hospitals and science laboratories.
To make matters more interesting, according to ars technica, Apple licensed “Mighty Mouse” from CBS, which owned the rights to the venerable cartoon character of the same name. Both Apple and CBS were the targets of Man & Machine’s trademark infringement lawsuit. On October 6, 2009, the Patent and Trademark Office granted registration of “Mighty Mouse” to Man & Machine. The CEO of Man & Machine remarked in a press release that “Others have used the name MIGHTY MOUSE for their computer mice and have sought registration of that trademark, but now the United States government has spoken….We look forward to the continuation and expansion of the Mighty Mouse line of waterproof mice.”
Apple’s new mark, “Magic Mouse,” was likely conceived in a rush to comply with the Patent and Trademark Office’s decision to award the registration of “Mighty Mouse” to Man & Machine. Likewise, Apple has changed the name of its former “Mighty Mouse” product to “Apple Mouse.” Apple may also owe Man & Machine considerable royalties for past infringement of its Mighty Mouse mark. The lesson here is when you adopt a mark for your product or service, do your homework first even if you are Apple.
–Adam G. Garson, Esq.