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Just a Thought - Tale of Two Tigers


- May 5th, 2005

I have opinions of my own -- strong opinions -- but I don't always agree with them.
George Bush
US Republican President (1924 -)

Public opinion is as fickle as the weather, and about as predictable.

Well, maybe that's not entirely true: I can predict when it'll rain; all I have to do is wash my car, and what was a crystal blue sky an hour before becomes dark, angry, and pregnant with rain.

I can also predict what happens to those poor souls who, for whatever reason, find themselves in a legal tussle with Apple. If you are the suer then you can resign yourself to being looked upon as the 'Bad Guy', out to harm the company the Jobs built. If you are the suee, then you most likely deserve to be in the cross-hairs of Apple's legal team.

There are exceptions, of course, but you can pretty much bet the farm on what general opinion you'll get from Apple fans on either situation. If you're dealing with non-Apple fans, then bet the opposite.

For instance: When Carl Fiorentino decided he would sue Apple for what he perceived as infringing use of his 'Tiger' trademark, he got a torrent of cat calls, boos, hisses, and threats of lost business; and that's from his relatives.

Tiger Direct customers, on the other hand, were generally supportive of their legal move against Apple.

Just kidding about the relatives, but those statements are otherwise accurate: Tiger Direct has gotten so many calls concerning its litigation against Apple that Mr. Fiorentino felt compelled to post a telephone message (888-666-7900) that explains his position on the matter.

Lonny Paul, Tiger Direct's Director of eCommerce told me that, "Tiger Direct has received a number of communications from both sides of the fence. Our President, Carl Fiorentino, released a communication on Friday (4/29/2005) afternoon to address the case for inquiring minds. That release has satisfied most questions people have and provides a timeline from 1987 to current day."

I believe it is worth your time to take a listen, just to make an honest attempt at having an informed opinion.

And how did the calls pan out?

"Macintosh supporters have, in several cases repeatedly, faxed and emailed in moderate amounts regarding their displeasure," Mr. Paul said. "The Tiger Direct customer-base has been overwhelmingly in support of our actions to protect our Tiger family of brands. "

Many of you have written me to voice your opinion of the Apple vs. Tiger Direct lawsuit after my column on the subject last week. One thing is for sure; Most Apple fans don't see this lawsuit as a Tiger Direct's 'David' against Apple's Goliath; for many it's more like a Tiger Direct's leech seeking sustenance for Apple's exposed underbelly.

I'm not so sure that Tiger Direct is merely the opportunist many might think it to be.

When Apple applied to get the name 'Tiger' for one of its trademarks (78269988) back in July of 2003, Tiger Direct opposed the application. According to the government's patent and trademark site, the application from Apple for the 'Tiger' trademark is still pending.

So, it looks like the folks at Tiger Direct may not be the nefarious ne'er-do-wells that some might think, and it may be honestly and earnestly trying to protect its trademark from Apple. They are just a little company trying insure their place in this big, crazy, mixed-up existence we call reality, at least, that's the gist of Mr. Fiorentino's message, and I tend to believe him.

That, in no way, means that I think Tiger Direct should be suing Apple, and a brief look through the U.S. Patent and Trademark website will show you why.

Do a search for 'Tiger' the trademark and you'll get close to 9600 hits. I'm no legal scholar, but I don't believe I need to be to understand that the word 'Tiger' can refer to baseball teams and go-getters, big cats and big moths, types of prints and print types, and company names and names of operating systems. We are already awash with 'Tiger' monikers: Tony sells us frosted flakes, the Detroit baseball team has not won a World Series in 20 years, and Mary Jane Watson uses the term for Peter Parker, giving him the blushing hots, when she told him to, "Go get 'em..."

Tigers are everywhere, and we've managed so far to differentiate between Exxon's Tiger in the Tank, and Tiger Lip Balm, I see no reason why we can't differentiate between a seller of computers, computer hardware, and computer software, and an operating system.

Of course, the courts will decide if we truly can tell the difference or not. Still that's my opinion, whether I agree with it or not.

is a writer who currently lives in Orlando, FL. He's been a Mac fan since Atari Computers folded, but has worked with computers of nearly every type for 20 years.

You can send your comments directly to me, or you can also post your comments below.

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