What the hell is going on over at Apple?
If you are a globally recognised computer company whose reputation in many ways depends as much on its ability to appeal to hip, young, media savvy consumers as it does on its cutting edge technology you'd think you'd want to be seen as down with the green zeitgeist and supportive of the whole environmental movement.
Add in the fact that treehugger-in-chief Al Gore sits on its board and you'd assume Apple, perhaps more than any other technology firm, would be doing its utmost to reach out to environmentally conscious consumers.
And yet despite its recent commitment to enhance its environmental policies and become a "Green Apple" - itself an embarrassing u-turn following repeated refusals to respond to a barrage of constant criticism from Greenpeace over the company's environmental policies and use of toxic components - the company has once again managed to embroil itself in an unedifying spat with another green campaign.
The latest row is with the City of New York over its new GreeNYC campaign to encourage consumers to curb their environmental impact.
It's pretty hard to take issues with such a campaign, but according to reports at Wired.com Apple has managed it, objecting to the Big Apple's use of a stylised green apple with a stalk and a leaf as the logo for its campaign.
The logo has begun to appear around the city on bus shelters, hybrid gasoline-electric taxicabs and Whole Foods' shopping bags, and the city has applied for a trademark prompting Apple to file its formal opposition to the move.
The company says that the logo bears a resemblance to its own famous Apple logo and as such infringes on its trademark. It calls for New York's trade mark application to be rejected on the grounds that it will confuse people and "seriously injure the reputation which [Apple] has established for its goods and services".
Now this line of argument appears pretty rich on three fronts.
Secondly, unless Whole Foods has decided to ditch the concept of selling organic food in favour of selling laptops there appears no danger of this logo confusing anyone bar the most congenitally stupid. As Gerald Singleton, the intellectual-property lawyer representing New York, told Wired.com: "No consumer is likely to be confused… this well-known city is using its new design in a variety of contexts that have absolutely nothing to do with Apple Inc."
Thirdly, if (and it's a big if) there is some vague subconscious association that consumers draw between the two logos then given that Apple's recent environmental track record includes a long-running stand off with Greenpeace, a refusal to join any of the IT industry groups seeking to address the sector's gargantuan environmental footprint and repeated accusations that it has not done enough to remove harmful components from its products, it can only stand to benefit from being linked with a green campaign.
Of course, every firm has the right to protect its trademarks and Apple has a powerful brand that is well worth defending, but you still have to pick your battles. Apple has won justified plaudits in recent months for finally attempting to improve its green policies and releasing several products that boast impressive green credentials. And yet, now it appears it wants to rile green consumers and activists afresh for little or no purpose.
The complex vagaries of the patent system mean Apple may yet prove successful at blocking New York's use of the logo. But given that it has now cast itself as the bad guy in a fight with a campaign that aims to promote "environmentally friendly policies and practices" you have to ask whether it is really worth it. Particularly when the only people likely to be confused by the two logos are in all likelihood too stupid to turn on a MacBook in the first place.
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