Swatch AG v Apple Inc have slugged it out in countries including the UK, New Zealand, Jamaica and Singapore over registration of the iWatch trademark. PIcture: Tony Avelar/ AP
Swatch AG v Apple Inc have slugged it out in countries including the UK, New Zealand, Jamaica and Singapore over registration of the iWatch trademark. PIcture: Tony Avelar/ AP

Swiss and US trademark battle heads to Supreme Court of Appeal

By Bongani Nkosi Time of article published May 4, 2020

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A trademark battle between Swiss and American electronic giants that has been heard in courts and intellectual property offices across several countries is now headed to the Bloemfontein-based Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA).

Swatch AG v Apple Inc have slugged it out in countries including the UK, New Zealand, Jamaica and Singapore over registration of the iWatch trademark.

The Switzerland-based watchmaker Swatch sought to block Apple from registering the trademark on grounds that it would create confusion in markets.

Swatch maintained that the name “iWatch” was similar to “iSwatch” and “Swatch”, its own products.

As trademarks were territorial, they have to be registered in each country where a company sought to have its product.

Swatch enjoyed victory in some countries but not in others.

The Intellectual Property Office of Singapore ruled against Swatch in 2019. But the ruling only allowed Apple to brand goods such as computers, computer hardware, computer peripherals and radios as “iWatch”, not watches or smart watches.

The fight between Swatch and Apple entered South Africa’s courts in 2016. In this first round, Apple took the Swiss giants to the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria and won.

Swatch now sought to have the high court ruling set aside through appeal. The SCA scheduled Swatch’s application for a hearing on May 11.

In a bulletin citing Swatch AG (Swatch SA) as applicants and Apple Inc as respondents, the SCA said it would hear an “opposition of registration of trademark”.

A Bench of Appeal Judges will decide “whether the trademark was confusingly similar” and “whether the appellant was entitled to an order refusing the registration of the respondent’s iWatch trademark”. 

@BonganiNkosi87

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