Germany cafe Apfelkind takes a bite out of Apple in copyright fight

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 09 October, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 09 October, 2013, 5:40am

It is only a small cafe in the centre of a small German city, but its owner has succeeded where the Beatles failed and won a legal stand-off with the US computer giant Apple.

Apfelkind (Apple Child) is a cafe in Bonn where parents can sip lattes while children play with toys or listen to storytellers. Its logo shows the outline of a child's face within a red apple - with none of the characteristic bite marks of the electronics manufacturer's logo.

Yet when Apfelkind owner Christin Romer filed a trademark application for her company in 2011, Apple got in touch asking her to withdraw the request since customers could potentially confuse the two logos.

Romer stood firm and a two-year legal correspondence ensued. Last week Apple withdrew its objection.

The key factor that inspired Romer to fight back was a gagging clause. At first Apple had offered a compromise whereby she could use the Apfelkind logo on her own franchise products but not on any electronic equipment.

Romer said she only planned to sell branded mugs, keyrings and carrier bags, but was unhappy with a clause in the settlement stating that she could not talk about any of the correspondence between her and Apple.

"I have people coming into my cafe on a daily basis, asking me what is going on with Apple," she said.

"If I couldn't have talked about the outcome at all, that would have been very strange."

Apple declined to comment.

In 2006 it won an epic legal battle with Apple Corps, the record company owned by Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr and the widows of George Harrison and John Lennon. After initial legal action more than 30 years ago, an agreement had been reached that Apple Computers would stay clear of the music business while Apple Corps would not get involved in computers.

Apple Corps sued Apple Computers for copyright infringement after the launch of iTunes in 2003. The Beatles lost their high court battle in 2006.

In 2008 New York City, nicknamed the Big Apple, had to alter its GreeNYC logo after a complaint from the manufacturer.