Randolph Divisions, maker of the HearPod digital hearing aid, has sued Apple over its EarPods, alleging trademark infringement — literally making a federal case out of it in the United States District Court for the District of Hawaii.
All this fuss over something that you stick in your ear?
Yes, according to Patently Apple, because Randolph Divisions insists that Apple is infringing on its 2007 trademark for “HearPod,” which is specific to the class of hearing aids. As of 2012, though, Apple also owns its trademark for “EarPods” and “Apple EarPods,” classified under “headphones; microphones; remote control for controlling audio and video players and mobile phones; sound reproducing apparatus.”
Still, Randolph Divisions claims that the products are similar, especially as they are both used in the ear, and that “[Apple’s] actions in this complaint commenced after [Randolph Division’s] Mark became ‘famous’ and cause[d] dilution of the distinctive quality of the Plaintiff’s Mark thereby causing damage to Plaintiff’s and entitling Plaintiffs to injunctive and other relief as provided by law.”
In order to claim trademark dilution, however, a brand must be sufficiently famous and well-known to even be recognized legally capable of dilution under the law. If the claimant’s mark does not rise to that level (and it’s rather unlikely that HearPod would — see the previous link explaining that Coach is not famous enough as a handbag to claim dilution), the determination as to whether there is trademark infringement turns to whether there is a likelihood of confusion among consumers regarding the two products in question.
So what do you think: would the average consumer confuse Apple’s headphones with Randolph Division’s hearing aids?
You be the judge in the comments — and then Judge Leslie Kobayashi in Honolulu will get her say as the presiding judge in this case.
Stay tuned for updates!