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Lawsuit could grab Tiger by the tail

Suit alleges Apple OS encroaches on name of computer seller Tiger Direct. If latter wins, Apple marketing could be in disarray.

Apple Computer has been hit with a trademark infringement lawsuit, alleging that its newly released Mac operating system, nicknamed Tiger, encroaches on the name of online computer reseller Tiger Direct.

Tiger Direct, a subsidiary of Systemax, filed the suit Thursday and is seeking a temporary restraining order and injunction when it goes before a U.S. District Court in Florida for a hearing Tuesday.

Should Tiger Direct, which also sells Apple products, prevail in its case, it could grab Apple's extensive marketing and promotions for Mac OS X 10.4 by the tail.

Apple plans to debut its Tiger OS at 6 p.m. Friday amid much fanfare at its retail stores. The computer maker plans to close its stores at 5 p.m., only to reopen them an hour later for Tiger's launch with a celebration that will continue through midnight.

Tiger Direct, however, will not be celebrating.

In its lawsuit, Tiger Direct alleges Apple's infringement on its trademark has had far-reaching implications.

"Apple Computer's use of the term 'Tiger' has also affected search results in Internet search engines. Before?an Internet search for the term 'tiger' would result in Tiger Direct being the sole provider of computers, computer software and computer related products. Tiger Direct would also almost always appear in the first three responses to such a search," the lawsuit states.

But now, Tiger Direct alleges, Apple's Tiger OS is at the top of the search listing on Yahoo and Microsoft's MSN, as well as inundating search results on Google.

And as other Apple resellers begin to carry the Tiger OS, more competition is expected to follow when it comes to computer-related Tiger searches, Tiger Direct claims.

Tiger Direct is asking the courts to issue preliminary and permanent injunctions against Apple to prevent its future use of the name "Tiger" in its products, as well as seeking damages in excess of $75,000.

Apple declined to comment, citing the pending litigation with Tiger Direct.