Mac Musings

Tiger Direct Sues Apple over Mac OS X Tiger

Daniel Knight - 2005.04.29

"Apple Computer has been slapped with a lawsuit by TigerDirect Inc. for allegedly infringing its trademark with the new Mac OS X 'Tiger'> operating system scheduled for release on Friday."

You'd think it was April Fools Day or that you were visiting Crazy Apple Rumors, but AppleInsider has the story, based on information from Bloomberg.

For Mac users unfamiliar with, they are a mail order computer company that specializes in close out, refurbished, and low-priced equipment. They've been in business since 1987 and have an unsatisfactory rating with their local Better Business Bureau.

Speculation on Slashdot is that this is a last-ditch attempt to keep the company solvent.

Timing Is Everything

Apple has already shipped Mac OS X 10.4 (Tiger) to retailers, and some of them have already shipped Tiger to customers. Apple first previewed "Tiger" at last year's Worldwide Developers Conference and announced the product name, Tiger, on May 8, 2004.

Tiger Direct could have known a year ago that Puma, Jaguar, and Panther were going to give way to Tiger. They could have filed suit against Apple more than a day or two before the product's release date - Apple has not been secretive about their naming scheme.

In fact, Tiger Direct has filed too late to prevent Apple from shipping product. The hearing regarding a preliminary injunction won't take place until next Tuesday.

Trademark Confusion

Trademarks exist within specific markets. In the recording industry, there's Apple Corps. In the computer industry, there's Apple Computer. In high-end audio, there are McIntosh components. In computers, Macintosh computers.

It's not at all uncommon for trademarks based on proper nouns (McDonald's) or dictionary words (Apple, Tiger) to be owned and used simultaneously in different markets.

To demonstrate trademark infringement, Tiger Direct has to demonstrate that Apple's use of "Tiger" creates confusion in the marketplace, dilutes the Tiger Direct brand, or somehow leverages itself by association with Tiger Direct.

Tiger Direct has no business relationship with Apple Computer. They don't sell Macs or Apple software. The closest they come is selling HP's repackaged Apple iPod.

Tiger direct sells Windows PCs and accessories for Windows PCs. They sell direct to users via the Internet and a catalog.

Apple makes computers and software for their computers, including the Mac OS. The new version of Mac OS X doesn't run on any of the computers Tiger Direct sells.

In other words, we're looking at two completely different markets although both companies are in the same industry. Tiger Direct is a store. Tiger, the Mac OS, is an operating system.

What Tiger Direct is doing would be akin to McDonald's Corporation suing any dairy farmers named McDonald or MacDonald because both sell milk products. It just doesn't make any sense at all.

I'm hoping the judge who hears this one will laugh them out of court - and that Apple Computer will at least think about countersuing Tiger Direct for a nuisance lawsuit. No joking.