Small Jazz Musician Foils Apple Music Trademark Registration

by Dennis Crouch

Bertini v. Apple Inc., — F.4th — (Fed. Cir. 2023)

Apple Information was based by The Beatles in 1968 and rapidly grew to become successful, producing many hit data within the late Nineteen Sixties and early Seventies. Apple Pc Firm was based within the mid-Seventies and virtually instantly sued for trademark infringement by Apple Corps (the father or mother firm of Apple Information).  The businesses finally settled the case with Apple Pc paying $80k and agreeing to remain out of the music enterprise.  The businesses clashed once more within the 2000s as Apple Pc (now Apple Inc.) expanded into music through iTunes and different providers.  The 2 finally reached one other settlement that transfers substantial rights over to Apple Inc. to make use of the mark in reference to its music-related services.

In 2015 Apple started utilizing the mark APPLE MUSIC as its new music streaming service. It additionally filed to register a trademark on the mark.

In the meantime, Charlie Bertini created his band AppleJazz Band again in 1984 to carry out on the AppleJazz competition.  He additionally created the AppleJazz document label.  Bertini filed an opposition to Apple’s TM registration which the TTAB finally dismissed.  On attraction right here, nonetheless, the Federal Circuit has reversed — holding that Apple had not confirmed a enough proper of precedence.

Tacking: The essential problem within the case is whether or not Apple Inc. can declare precedence use again to the founding of Apple Information in 1968 (or someday earlier than 1984). Of significance, the pre-84 use of Apple mark was solely for “gramophone data” and different document codecs.  In its registration utility, Apple is in search of to register APPLE MUSIC for “15 broad classes of providers, from the manufacturing and distribution of sound recordings, to presenting stay musical performances, to offering web sites that includes leisure and sports activities info.”  Slip Op.

On attraction, the Federal Circuit held that the tacking evaluation have to be pursued for every service listed its utility.

The Board legally erred by allowing Apple to assert absolute precedence for all the providers listed in its utility primarily based on a displaying of precedence for one service listed within the utility. Tacking a mark for one good or service doesn’t grant precedence for each different good or service within the trademark utility. A trademark proprietor should present tacking is on the market for every good or service for which it claims precedence on that floor. . . . The trademark applicant can’t set up absolute precedence for the complete utility just by proving precedence of use for a single service listed within the utility.

Slip Op.  Right here, Apple has not proven that taking is correct for stay musical performances and subsequently the applying have to be rejected.  On remand, Apple will doubtless have the ability to slender its utility to solely providers which are correctly coated by its task from Apple Information.

In her evaluation, Federal Circuit Chief Decide Moore repeatedly acknowledged that tacking is an exception to the atypical rule and needs to be narrowly construed.  American courts “uniformly apply the tacking doctrine narrowly.”  Though tacking permits for minor adjustments in providers and within the mark itself, tacking requires “substantial identification.” “[G]oods or providers have to be considerably an identical for tacking to use.” Id.  Within the context right here, so as to have tacking for musical performances “Apple should subsequently present stay musical performances are considerably an identical to gramophone data.” Though substantial identification is a query of truth, the Federal Circuit concluded that there was no want for the TTAB to find out this query — “no cheap individual may conclude … that gramophone data and stay musical performances are considerably an identical.”

Accordingly, Apple shouldn’t be entitled to tack its use of APPLE MUSIC for stay musical performances onto Apple Corps’ 1968 use of APPLE for gramophone data. As a result of Apple started utilizing the mark APPLE MUSIC in 2015, Bertini has precedence of use for APPLE JAZZ as to stay musical performances. We subsequently reverse the Board’s dismissal of Bertini’s opposition to Apple’s utility to register APPLE MUSIC.


Word that Apple has considerably moved-on from this problem and redid its brand as proven beneath utilizing a design-plus-word mark.