back to article Apple sued over Mighty Mouse

A US hardware manufacturer is taking Apple and broadcasting corporation CBS to court over the Mighty Mouse name. Mighty Mouse as seen in Apple's eye... Mighty Mouse as seen in Apple's eye... Man & Machine has, since 2004, sold its Mighty Mouse - a waterproof and chemical resistant optical mouse for medical, industrial and …

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  1. s. pam
    Flame

    Here I come to trash the day.....

    Hey Rocky: watch me pull a Mighty Mouse out of my trousers

    Hey Bullwinkle: Mighty Mouse can't even defeat that!

    I'm going to patent every 2 word combination available in the OED to stop this kind of rubbish occuring. Solicitors & Busses @ Kent Coast Cliffs anyone???

  2. Dex
    Alert

    Erm.....

    Maybe it's just me, but 1940 came before 2004? They claim CBS have no right to trademark the term "Mighty Mouse" for use with mac mice? Well if CBS own the name they can do what the hell they like with it......or don't the shortsighted people at M&M realise that? Here's a tip.....lay off the choclate and do some legal research....or is that just my though?

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Au contraire..

    ...makes sense to me. The litmus test, as I am aware, is whether there's a reasonable likelihood of confusion, and copyright / trademark law is heavily based on the market involved. Apple was fine when it didn't have anything to do with music, but got smacked down when Apple records came along and said, hey, Apple's doing synthesizers now (with the IIGS). Sane or not, case law suggests this is similar.

    And, to be honest, if this little company's been selling a Mighty Mouse for longer, they've got the right to use it. There's no likelihood of confusion between Mighty Mouse the cartoon and Mighty Mouse the mouse, but there is a great deal of confusion likely between one company's Mighty Mouse and the other. And one of them was there first.

  4. Gareth

    @Dex - Trademarks are industry-specific

    A trademark is not the same as a patent or copyright in that the same term can be trademarked by more than one owner as long as they operate in different industries.

    This has worked in Apple's favor before, when they were unsuccessfully challenged in the 80s by Apple Corps records - Apple were allowed to keep their name so long as they never used it to sell music (erm, that worked well then...).

    In this instance, M&M might just have a case.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Flame

    Apple is the new Microsoft.

    I hope Apple gets their pants sued off. I am a *formerly loyal* Mac user who Apple tried to rip off - MANY YEARS OF LOYALTY means nothing to Apple, can't legally provide details because the evil bastards require a non-disclosure agreement to settle things (nice how they muzzle the people they've tried to screw).

    The more bad things happen to Apple, the more lawsuits they lose, the better!!! I liked it a lot better when their stock was $14. Apple DIE!!!

    Of course they won't die. Evil things stick around forever, and too many people like their iThingies. *Apple* makes a *mockery* of you and everyone else.

    Apple is the new Microsoft, taking their customers for granted, doing whatever they please whether you like it or not.

    (flameproof suit donned, leaving the building now and heading for my secret bunker until the background radioactivity diminishes, Apple apologists and fanboyz and iLovers can take it from here)

    Anticipated comments: "what a troll, coward, stick around and defend your position, apple loves their customers, just a disgruntled user, windoze defender, ms lover, ms troll, microsloth shill, apple does no wrong, steve jobs is god how DARE you question god"

  6. Nexox Enigma

    @Dex

    They probably claim that CBS have no right to license the name because trademarks generally only hold for similar products and industries. Since cartoons and computer hardware don't frequently get confused, it should be ok for there to be a seperatly owned trademark for each industry. Thus CBS can't tell Apple that they can say Mighty Mouse, since someone else already makes computer hardware of similar title.

    I read the title and hoped that Apple was getting sued for how much the mouse completely sucks. No luck there, I guess.

  7. Joey Y

    @Dex

    The problem is not with CBS owning the name. Since CBS owns the trademark for a cartoon rodent superhero, their Mighty Mouse is unlikely to be confused with a piece of computer hardware used as a pointing device.

    On the other hand, M&M sold a piece of computer hardware used as a pointing device. M&M are complaining that Apple released a similar device with the same name. (If Apple had released a cartoon about a rodent, M&M would [hopefully, anyway] not be suing them.)

  8. Player_16
    Coat

    @Dex

    Chocolate!? M&M !? Hey, I do believe Mars chocolates makes a brand of chocolate. Let me see... they've been around for years...! it's on the tip of my tongue... It melts in my mouth but not... Help me out here...

    Mine's the one with the colorful round chocolate lollies in the pockets.

  9. Aubry Thonon

    Re:Erm....

    This is a trademark, not a patent, and is only enforceable if there is a possibility of mistaking one product for another. Therefore CBS, owning the trademark "Mighty Mouse" for the cartoon, could "lease" the trademark for cartoons, comics, etc... - items of a similar nature (including appearances of MM's likeness on various non-cartoon-related products, like Burger King cups, for example).

    Mighty Mouse the cartoon hero is unlikely to be mistaken for Might Mouse the M&M product, but Mighty Mouse the Apple-made mouse is playing in *exactly* the same product field as M&M's Mighty Mouse - thus Apple has breached trademarks.

    This is the same reason why Apple (the record company) and Apple (the computer company) co-existed for so long (and we'll leave how *that* ended as an exercise for the students).

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Coat

    Who's involved now?

    Nestle, Cadburys and now Eminem? I thought this was about computer peripherals?

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Use of trademarks across different domains

    I imagine the thinking is that you can have the same name used by different companies, so long as they're in different domains - so CBS owned 'Mighty Mouse' for entertainment and M&M owned 'Mighty Mouse' for computer hardware. I guess M&M are arguing that Apple bought the wrong copyright...

    It's kind of like the use of the word 'Apple' for the music company, and 'Apple' for the computer company. That was ok because Apple the computer company promised not to go into music so the domains would never meet... oh, wait. Er.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Dex

    Trademarks are usually registered for a particular business area - I'm guessing CBS didn't trademark "Mighty Mouse" for computer input devices in 1940. If M&M have been selling (legitimately) a mouse under that name since 2001, then Apple are probably stuffed on this one.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Boffin

    Trademarks

    Two products/services can have the same name without infringing on a registered trademark, so long as the products/services are substantially different and wont cause confusion amongst the public. Therefore 1940's cartoon character and 2004 hardware input device = no worries.

    2004 specialised input device and 2008 specialised input device = pretty good claim. don't want hospitals buying overpriced designer gear.

  14. Dale Harrison
    Coat

    El Reg will be in trouble....

    Shouldn't you also put the superscript "TM" next to the M&M word - otherwise the Mars company might sue you too!

    It's patently obvious.

    Mines the one that no one would steal cos it's a crap joke.

  15. Olof P

    @ Dex

    Trademarks only apply in a certain domain, like, say, comics or computer accessories. Even though Pentium is an Intel trademark for computer processors, you could well get away with selling food under the same name, because the risk of confusion would be small.

    In this case a look at the US PTO trademark database shows 6 live trademarks for "mighty mouse". CBS has most of them, but the older of those relate to toys, clothing, vitamin supplements, candy etc. Looking at the ones relating to computer control devices, CBS seems to have filed (not actually required) last summer, and then M&M in december last year. Remember that if CBS/Apple could get it, they could force M&M to rename their product, which has been around longer than Apple's version.

  16. varcher

    Couple of Trademark laws caveats

    1: CBS could, but probably did not, trademark the name Mighty Mouse in the case of electrical devices (which is the likeliest category for such a trademark).

    Trademarks are granted in specific areas, and you can reserve a trademark in any area you want. If CBS did not trademark it in the proper category, then M&M could have. And CBS scammed Apple in "giving them rights" to a trademark they did not have. That's likely to be the case.

    However...

    2: If I remember right the US legal environment, there's a specificity in trademark law that's called "due diligence". You are supposed to enforce your trademark against infrigement.

    Apple has been selling its "Mighty Mouse" for years now. It's hard to claim by Man & Machine that it was unaware of the violation - Apple is not exactly a low profile provider of computer equipment. If Man & Machine did not sue as soon as they became aware of the trademark violation, they implicitely agreed not to, and lost their rights.

  17. Carsten Pedersen
    Go

    Trademark registrations are categorized by product type

    so just because you have registered the trademark for a cartoon character does not necessarily grant you the rights for a piece of computer hardware.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Stop

    Man & Machine is obviously not selling anything...

    This is just frivilous litigation. No one probably even knew of this other Mighty Mouse mouse, and so Apple was doing what most people would've done and licensed the company who had the TM *first*. If anything I reckon CBS could sue Man and Machine for not licensing the name themselves! And yeah 1940 way predated 2004, morons! I'm sure this law suit will die in the arse as it deserves.

  19. Richard
    Stop

    Trademarks != Patents

    Trademarks are issued with relation to specific zones of interest. Hence Apple Computer's spat with Apple Corp. over who got to be Apple with regards music distribution.

    CBS probably (and this is just a guess based on where cartoons get used) only have the trademark over clothing, food products and broadcasting. And possibly cat repellent.

    In the realm of computer peripherals, M&M may well have more right to the Mighty Mouse mark. Unless some judge decides that their mark only applies for specialist computer peripherals. It all comes down to whether the mark is diluted by the presence of the other. M&M /have/ to fight it - trademarks are defend it or lose it.

    <aside>For some reason, there's a bucketload of case law over dolphin based marques. </aside>

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    As Olaf points out

    M&M did not trademark Mighty Mouse for computing devices. CBS put in an application in the Summer of last year. M&M then put in an application in December last year... Suing Apple is just a way to get the headlines. The real battle is going to be between CBS and M&M.

  21. Eddie
    Stop

    Tick tock

    Why has it taken M&M so long to get round to sueing Apple?

    Apple's MM has been around a while, surely someone at M&M noticed this. If you're going to defend a trademark surely some sort of promt action is required, not sit around for a few years waiting for your "competitor" to build market share then demand your pound of flesh.

  22. Neil Hoskins

    Remember when the Yanks put a man on the moon?

    And now they just spend all their time and energy in court arguing over who had a silly idea first.

  23. Gulfie
    Joke

    'quite big mouse'

    So I don't have a Mighty Mouse any more? How about 'quite big mouse', 'supersize mouse' or 'Pebl shaped mouse' ;-) - are you listening, Motorola?

  24. Slaine
    Paris Hilton

    This is really gonna spank the return of "marathon" bars.

    Naturally, I took one look at the headline and knew in an instant that Sir Paul McCartney used to dabble in drawing animated children's cartoons. I have refrained from using the "I'll get my coat" in case it sparks a return bout of litigation from "mac".

    Premusably, my icon had better change her name quick too.

  25. Steve

    CBS did nothing wrong

    They gave them the rights to make a Mighty Mouse mouse - it's not their fault if Apple thought that allowed them to make a Mighty Mouse.

  26. Mister Cheese
    Coat

    Oooh crumbs.

    Think I'll make a sharp, electrically-unsafe pointer device and call it the Dangermouse...

  27. Johnny FireBlade
    Paris Hilton

    Get out of here...

    Mighty Mouse was a 1940s cartoon? :O I remember watching it as a lad (30 now), but that must have been re-runs of re-runs! TV is always ageless as a kid and as I had no perception of its age then, I still don't now! Rose-tinted glasses, anyone? ;)

    Paris because at 27, she's probably not old enough to remember Mighty Mouse (re-runs an' all).

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Happy

    @ Apple is the new Microsoft

    You gave me a good laugh, zealots like you are great for entertainment purposes and so clearly blindsighted.

  29. Kenny Millar
    Coat

    Now I'm normally a Mac Head...

    ...but this time I'm in favour of M&M's case against Apple.

    Come on the wee man!

    Mine is the one with the leather patch on the elbow.

  30. Paul
    Paris Hilton

    RE: Man & Machine is obviously not selling anything...

    Is that a Joke or are you just an Idiot?

    Paris, because even she knows to read the other comments first.

  31. Tom
    Jobs Horns

    Wow, this comments thread...

    Is a brilliant show piece of how we rarely read further than the first two comments then the rage starts to build and you have to let fly, there's hardly a single post that isn't the same response to Dex's (mis)understanding of intellectual rights (You work for the Government Dex?)

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    @ Paul

    No it's not a joke, and im certainly no idiot, although you may be one for missing the point. It's a jab at a company getting litigous several years after this supposed producted they considered 'violated' their rights came out, causing me to hypothesis why they are doing this now, ie. low / no sales, so desperate to make some cash.

    And also I posted my comment when there was only 2 posts, so thanks for playing, but you fail!

    Anyhow as pointed out by people, and some others seem to have missed:

    a. It's possible that given M&Ms delay to act they have lost their right to act now

    b. CBS lodged the claim to the name prior to M&M, so M&M may not even be able to persue the case due to that also

    Also as a side note, you bandwagon jumping critics, do you honestly believe Apple licensed the name from CBS in the knowledge M&M had a product of the same name too??

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Flame

    RE: Oooh crumbs.

    M&M make one. Its the Linex version...

    How many people will this upset?

    Troll troll troll....

    And how many Linex FanBoys will be foaming at the mouth to much to read beyod the first line and see that Im trying to wind them up?

    And how many will post angry replys after reading the full post thinking that I care.

  34. Ian Osborne
    Thumb Down

    varcher is right...

    ...turning a blind eye to Apple selling the Mighty Mouse for three years might well cause their case to fail. Remember when Tiger Direct Inc sued Apple over their calling OSX 10.4 'Tiger'? They failed.

  35. Duncan

    what the

    i'm not generally a fan off apples plasticy tat at the best of times but using the name of our number 1 hero to push this i-junk on some i-lemming has tipped me over the edge.

    jobs! get out of your own arse and pay some dam respect to the realy mighty mouse you tw*t. why not call it an apple mouse or even better i-mouse?

  36. Vernon Lloyd
    Paris Hilton

    Ok then

    THe person at Apple who decided to use the name is at fault here.

    Maybe an internet search for other PC products called Mighty Mouse.

    B4 you Apple fanboys get on my back............COMPUTERS ARE A TOOL and ALL Fanboys are people with too much time on their hands.....

    /hmmm theres me writing this blog..........

    /Paris cause even she can see hypocracy

  37. David Webb
    Jobs Horns

    i-mouse

    Just incase Apple lose, I'm about to start production of the i-mouse, its basically a logitech G7 the the G7 scribbled out and i-mouse wrote in its place, then when Apple try to change their mouse name to i-mouse, I can sue them too!

  38. Rob Haswell
    Alert

    Funny name, Mighty Mouse

    I've always been amused by Apple describing that thing as "Mighty". I would just say "feature-complete".

  39. Paul
    Happy

    RE: @Paul.

    Ah. I see. Your another person who like to sound off without knowing what you are talking about the.

    Man and Machine are actualy quight a large company (Look them up)

    The Copyright seems to have been licensed from CBS for Apple advertiseing using the cartoon. (Look it up)

    Apple have a long history of releasing products without finding out if there is oter products on the market that are the same (Look up iPhone and Apple records, to name a few)

    It is possible that M&M have lost there right to sue, but there is also an argument that M&M may not have been aware of Apples mouse. It may be a well known product, but the name is not.

    As for asking you to look back at the other posts, I appologise. I did not realise that only 2 had been posted. My bad.

  40. Eddie
    Pirate

    "Mighty" mouse

    Personally, I think it's all a load of tosh, and in it's place we should have a class action against Apple for calling this featherweight a "Mighty" mouse - it's one of the few rodents I can crack with my hands (not the furry varieties of rodent, I hasten to add)

    Ah well, at least it's better than the smartie that came with first gen Imacs.

  41. Tom

    Trademarks

    Are about the most convoluted area of law here in the States; frankly, I don't even think the lawyers understand them. Having been involved in a Trademark dispute:

    1) Time of the filing is irrelevant to the veracity of the claim. In our case, we waited almost two years before filing a complaint. The first 9 months were spent trying to contact the violator without involving paid legal help. The next 9 months were spent with expensive lawyers exchanging worthless words on expensive letterhead trying to settle the complaint without going to court. Then we registered the complaint in court (more expensive lawyers and more expensive letterhead because the lawyer in our state was licensed for the state where the claim needed to be filed) the complaint and it wasn't until the day before the court was supposed to hear first arguments that the complaint was settled.

    2) Being the first to file for a Trademark doesn't automatically grant someone a Trademark. If your Trademark has officially been registered, you are in a better position to defend or assert your trademark, but it isn't the only criteria. If Company A has been selling the GeeWhizzzerBang in a particular region (geographical) for a particular market (computer, cartoon) they can still assert a Trademark for The GeeWizzzerBang if someone else applies for it. They need to prove they were the only ones selling the item under the name GeeWizzerBang, and that the other company is maliciously trying to build on their already established reputation. Admittedly a hard sell, but not impossible.

    3) Whoever initially applies for the Trademark is required to perform "due diligence" in searching for possible conflicts for the Trademark. Apple has a large legal staff and therefore has a higher burden for due diligence. Their staff ought to have found the Man & Machine product, even if they hadn't registered the TradeMark. As such, they ought to be taken to task by their supervisors if for no other reason than becoming unnecessarily embroiled in an expensive lawsuit there is a reasonable chance of them loosing.

    4) To really confuse things, you can have a perfectly legitimate trademark over the same product so long as there is no regional overlap between the two companies owning the trademark. The most obnoxious one of which I am aware is for a pair of Grocery chains here in the states named Giant. Just by luck one operated primarily in the North East and came as far south as Pennsylvania, while the other operated primarily in the mid-Atlantic region and came as far north as Maryland. Much confusion ensued when people crossed the state borders and tried to use their legitimate discount cards at the other's stores. Eventually one formed a holding company and bought the other one out, but you still can't use their discount cards at the competing chain.

    And after trying to explain all that, I think I'll go home now even though it's only the start of the day because I think my brain is fried.

  42. vincent himpe

    mouse ? who cares about a mouse

    i want a friggen RAT !. mice are for wannabe's. Tra handing a rat without being bitten or contracting rabies ..

  43. Troy Routley

    shakey lawsuit is shakey

    The internet wayback machine shows M&M using 'Mighty Mouse' in 2004, while Apple didn't start until 2005, but...

    Mighty Mouse trademark was owned and abandoned in 2004 by one William T Wilkinson of New Jersey. He also owned the TMs Mighty Mulch and Comfort Mouse. Trademark squatter? I don't know.

    M&M's TM application wasn't filed until Dec 18, 2007. CBS applied for the TM in respect to computer mice on Jul 9, 2007.

    My guess is that M&M didn't bother with legal action until their use of the mark was threatened. Now they're fighting it. I think that they would have been wiser to fight it in 2005 - they may have lost their chance now.

  44. Ivan Headache

    @ Re: Paul @Pau;

    "Apple have a long history of releasing products without finding out if there is oter products on the market that are the same (Look up iPhone and Apple records, to name a few)"

    When did Apple Computer bring a product called Apple Records to the market?

    But that's by the by. I just googled "Mighty Mouse" on the UK Google and oddly enough, the only mention of the M&M product in the first 120 results is in hits linking to this thread on El Reg or in other tech publications (mostly el reg!). All the other hits are references to the Cartoon and parodies in science and sport and a genetically modified genuine might mouse.

    In fact the only reference to the M&M MM is hit 124 (currently out of stock). In my opinion (FWIW) M&M would probably have a hard time claiming any rights to the name.

    On the Apple web-site, at the bottom of the Mighty Mouse page it says.

    "Mighty Mouse © CBS Operations Inc. All Rights Reserved"

    What does that mean? is it that the 2 words are copyright or what? What does the "all Rights Reserved" actually mean?

  45. Ted Treen
    Coat

    @Vernon Lloyd

    "/Paris cause even she can see hypocracy"

    So you share an English/spelling teacher with Paris?

    Don't claim it was ironic - that would be hypocrisy.

    Mine's the one with the OED & Roget's in the pockets, and "PEDANT" across the back......

  46. Nicholas Butler
    Flame

    Huh?

    I thought that Apples Mighty Mouse has been around longer than M&M's 2004 claim. and I think its time that Mars Candies should sue Mouse maker 'm&m' for brand name infringement..

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