Apple Just Won a Victory Over a Key Competitor in Europe
The Mi Pad, the first version of which came out in 2014, is a cheap-ish Android tablet with the same screen size and resolution as the iPad Mini, and the same colorful plastic materials as those used for Apple’s cheaper iPhones. But this isn’t about the fact that it looks very, shall we say, fruit-flavored—it’s about the Apple-esque name.
Xiaomi filed an application for the European Mi Pad trademark in 2014, upon which Apple complained to the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO). The EUIPO sided with the U.S. firm, finding that the two names were close enough to confuse the public.
So Xiaomi complained to the General Court of the European Union, which on Tuesday dismissed its appeal. That means “Mi Pad” does not get to be a European trademark.
The reasons should be fairly obvious, but here they are in legal-speak anyway, courtesy of the General Court:
Visually, the signs at issue display a high degree of similarity owing to the fact that IPAD is entirely reproduced in MI PAD, that the two signs coincide as to the letter sequence ‘ipad’ and that they differ only as to the presence of the additional letter ‘m’ at the beginning of MI PAD. Phonetically, the signs at issue display an average degree of similarity for the English-speaking part of the relevant public… and a high degree of similarity for the non-English-speaking part.
Xiaomi is one of Apple’s biggest rivals, along with other up-and-coming Chinese manufacturers such as Oppo, Vivo and Huawei. Xiaomi competes with Apple on several fronts, including smartphones, tablets, wearables and even laptops (it has a MacBook Air competitor called, uh, the Mi Notebook Air.)
It will be interesting to see whether today’s ruling has any knock-on effect on Xiaomi’s branding strategy in Europe. Neither Apple nor Xiaomi had responded to a request for comment on the General Court’s ruling at the time of writing.