Apple has won a trademark infringement suit from Black Tower Press over the use of "iBooks." GigaOM reported that Judge Denise Cote granted summary judgement in Apple's favor, ruling that there was no chance of consumer confusion over Apple's iBooks service for iOS and Black Towers' "iBooks imprint."
Black Tower owns the "iBooks" imprint—used similar to a brand in other industries, or like a label in the recording industry. The company acquired the imprint in 2006 as part of an asset purchase from another publisher.
According to GigaOM, the imprint has been used since the early part of this century for science fiction and horror books. Apple launched its iBooks ebook app and stores in 2010 with the release of the original iPad. Black Tower sued in 2011.
Judge Cote—the same judge overseeing the Department of Justice's antitrust suit against Apple for the very same iBooks—ruled "ibooks" was simply too generic to warrant an infringement claim, and that it is a descriptive term for books sold on the Internet. From our vantage point that applies more to "ebook" than "ibook," but Judge Cote didn't ask for our opinion.
Which is probably good for Apple as Judge Cote granted summary judgement to Apple. In her ruling, Judge Cote wrote:
[Black Tower] have offered no evidence that consumers who use Apple’s iBooks software to download ebooks have come to believe that Apple has also entered the publishing business and is the publisher of all of the downloaded books, despite the fact that each book bears the imprint of its actual publisher.
Note that Apple owns a trademark for "IBOOKS," a trademark it bought from another entity entirely. Apple had originally licensed "IBOOKS" for its line of iBook Mac laptops—remember those?—but bought the mark in full in preparation for the release of its ebook platform.
Black Tower, however, did not register a trademark for its use as a trademark. It can, however, continue to use the the iBooks imprint, while Apple is free to continue running its iBooks Store ebook platform.