Apple moves to trademark the term ‘startup’ in Malaysia

I was quoted by Digital News Asia in their article, “Apple moves to trademark the term ‘startup’ in Malaysia“on 30 August 2013.

I understand that the Technopreneurs Association of Malaysia (TeAM) will be taking on Apple’s STARTUP trade mark applications by filing an opposition before the deadline. More details at Digital News Asia.


Apple moves to trademark the term ‘startup’ in Malaysia
Gabey Goh
Aug 30, 2013

– Applications filed with MyIPO for mark under various classes
– Members of public or companies have until Oct 8 to oppose

IN a move that will certainly raise many eyebrows, Apple Inc has filed applications with the Intellectual Property Corporation of Malaysia (MyIPO) to trademark the term ‘startup’ in the country.

Yes, you read that right.

The Cupertino, California headquarters of Apple and a Kuala Lumpur-based legal representative, Wong & Partners, lodged the ‘startup’ applications on July 23.

The technology giant has applied to hold the trademark of the word ‘startup’ under various computing, mobile and educational classes.

According to the documents submitted, the mark ‘startup’ is being applied for in classes 35, 37, 41 and 43 for the following services:

Class 35: Retail store services, including retail store services featuring computers, computer software, computer peripherals, mobile phones, and consumer electronic devices, and demonstration of products relating thereto.
Click here to view/download the application [PDF]

Class 37: Maintenance, installation and repair of computer hardware, computer peripherals and consumer electronic devices; consulting services in the field of maintenance of computer hardware, computer peripherals, and consumer electronic devices.
Click here to view/download the application [PDF]

Class 41: Educational services, including conducting classes, workshops, conferences and seminars in the field of computers, computer software, computer peripherals, mobile phones, and consumer electronic devices and computer-related services; providing information in the field of education.
Click here to view/download the application [PDF]

Class 42: Design and development of computer hardware and software; technical support services, namely, troubleshooting of computer hardware and software problems; installation, maintenance and updating of computer software; technological consultancy services in the field of computers, computer software and consumer electronics; computer diagnostic services; computer data recovery.
Click here to view/download the application [PDF]

According to a report by Australia-based website TM Watch, which specialises in trademark developments, the same set of applications has also been filed in the country.

Calling it an “audacious” application, TM Watch journalist Tim Lince also noted that “the official Apple website references its operating system booting-up as ‘Startup’ (with a capital letter).”

[UPDATED] Terrence Lee of SGE.io has also reported that Apple has tried the file the same set of applications in Singapore since 2011.

The company’s trademark application was filed through the Madrid Protocol, an international registration system for marks of which Singapore is a member country. The US and China registrations may have also been filed through this system.

In Singapore, the mark is still pending approval despite being registered more than two years ago, which suggests that the registration has faced complications.

According to Lee, it is unclear if the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore received any objections, since any party can oppose the trademark two months after it was filed.

Responding to queries by Digital News Asia (DNA), intellectual property lawyer Foong Cheng Leong (pic) said that it is possible to trade mark English words so long that the mark is distinctive i.e. capable of distinguishing its goods or services from other traders.

“The marks, once registered, would give exclusive rights to Apple Inc to the word ‘startup’ in respect of the above listed services. Apple may stop anyone from using the said marks for the above listed services,” he said.

Foong added that the mark would cover the term ‘startup’ in any other variation, be it upper case or lower case letters such as ‘STARTUP’, ‘Startup’ or ‘StartUp’.

“Note that the registration does not mean that nobody can use the word ‘startup’ for any goods or services. It is only limited to the registered goods or services,” he added.

When asked how this move would affect existing boot camps, accelerator programmes and government-initiated programmes that have the term in their names, Foong said that assuming the marks are registered, if any of these bootcamps or accelerator uses the mark ‘startup’ for any of the abovementioned services (e.g. education services), they may be open to trade mark infringement and legal action.

“You can’t even provide retail services using the mark ‘startup’!” he added.

Moreover, Foong noted that if no one opposes the application with MyIPO, the application would proceed to the next stage of the process, which is registration.

“Three of the marks are advertised in the Government Gazette for opposition purposes. That means, any person can file a Notice of Opposition with MyIPO against the applications on or before Oct 8 2013.

“If no oppositions are filed after Oct 8 2013 — except the mark in Class 35 which is still pending advertisement — the marks will proceed to registration,” he said.

In addition the application cites a priority claim on the trademark from Jamaica dated Oct 21, 2010.

According to Foong, the law allows trademark applicants to get an earlier priority date by relating to a foreign mark.

“So for example, I filed a trademark in Singapore on May 25, 2013 and I also intend to file the mark in Malaysia on Aug 25, 2013. Instead of getting a priority date of Aug 25, 2013 (which is the filing date), I will get a priority date of May 25, 2013 (if I rely on the Singapore application).

“This is useful because if someone filed the mark after you filed your mark (let’s say on Aug 1, 2013) in Malaysia, your Malaysia trade mark will prevail because you got an earlier priority date. That person’s trademark will get objected,” he said.

DNA has reached out to Apple in Cupertino, California, and is currently awaiting official comment.

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