Apple wins trademark lawsuit over use of 'iBooks' term
Small publisher claimed it had acquired the trademark before Apple began using it to describe its e-reader platform.
A federal judge in New York has dismissed a trademark lawsuit against Apple over its use of the term "iBooks."
Black Tower Press, claiming that Apple's use of the term to describe its e-reader platform violated a trademark the small New York-based publisher acquired in 2006 and 2007. The publisher of science fiction and fantasy titles asserted that it acquired the trademark along with various assets of Byron Preiss, who had published more than 1,000 books under the "ibooks" brand starting in 1999.
The lawsuit acknowledged that Apple has a trademark for "iBook" related to its use on the personal computer the Mac maker sold from 1999 to 2006. However, the lawsuit noted that Apple did not begin to use the term to describe an electronic book or method for delivering electronic books until 2010.
In her 71-page ruling (see below) granting summary judgment, U.S. District Court Judge Denise Cote found that Black Tower failed to demonstrate a likelihood of consumer confusion, as well as failing to prove that Apple was unjustly enriched at the plaintiff's expense.
"They have offered no evidence that consumers who use Apple's iBooks software to download ebooks have come to believe that Apple has also entered the publishing business and is the publisher of all of the downloaded books, despite the fact that each book bears the imprint of its actual publisher," Cote wrote.
While neither Black Tower Press nor its predecessor obtained a trademark for the line of books, Cote noted in her decision Wednesday that Apple did, first purchasing its use from a software maker to describe its line of computers in 1999 and then for the e-reader platform in 2010.
A search of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office reveals an "ibook" record for science fiction books was filed in 1999 but listed as abandoned as of 2003. Another USTPO search reveals an Apple filing for "iBook" in 2010 that describes "software for reading electronic publications on digital electronic devices."
Preiss, an author and publisher who specialized in graphic novels and science fiction, died in a car crash in July 2005. Barbara Marcus, then the executive vice president of the publishing company Scholastic, told The New York Times in 2005 that Preiss was among the first publishers to release electronic books.