More On Apple vs. The Open Group In Use Of "Unix"

In June of 2003, The Open Group sued Apple over its use of the name "Unix" in its Mac OS X marketing. The Open Group (TOG) owns the name Unix, and charges a US$100,000 yearly fee to those companies who wish to license its use (note that this is completely unrelated to The SCO Groupis legal attacks on Linux). Shortly after TOG sued Apple, Apple counter-sued TOG in an effort to have the Unix name deemed generic, which would invalidate the trademark on the term.

OSView, Kelly McNeilis (formerly of newest publishing venture, has published a very interesting two-part piece on the battle between TOG and Apple. Firstly, he notes that the two companies are approaching the end of a year-long extension to the suit granted by the judge to allow the two companies to attempt a settlement. He also offers more background information on the suits.

Of more import is the interview with Graham Bird, vice president of marketing for TOG. From that interview (which Kelly McNeil notes are not exact quotes):

OSV: Why does the Open Group Web site mention Apple as being one of many companies that support the single Unix specification and also claim that the company is in violation of the trademark?

GB/OG: I donit think it does, but if Apple is mentioned somewhere in that capacity, it probably is because Apple [at one time] was one among several companies that believed that there should be an organization that governs a single Unix standard. It probably harkens back to the time in which Apple sold a different brand of Unix under the name AUX.


OSV: How do you and the open group respond to Appleis claim that Unix has become a generic term and that rights to the license should be taken away?

GB/OG: Thatis the argument youill get from any company that finds itself in a trademark dispute. Itis the only tactic they have.

The second part of the report is from California attorney Caleb Donner from the technology law firm Donner and Donner, who offers an extended opinion on the battle between the two companies. This includes even more background on the nature of the battle itself. From that opinion:

TOG, however, is between a rock and a hard place in trying to saving its trademark and attempting to resolve the matter with Apple. In the law there is a saying that you cannot sit on your rights. Here, TOG has publicly asserted that Apple is violating TOGis trademark. If TOG stands by and does nothing, i.e., fails to file a lawsuit to enforce its rights, TOG may in the future be found to have waived its rights to protect its trademark.

The legal expenses of such a battle are only a small part of the problem. Yes, it will cost hundreds of thousands of dollars in attorneyis fees and costs but that is a small amount relative to what happens for either side if they lose the battle. If either side loses this battle, there could be far-reaching consequences for each company. For Apple, the danger is significant but much less than for TOG. OS X and its successors will be hampered if Apple does not advertise that its OS is *nix based. This would be costly but not be catastrophic.

Thereis much more in the full OSView two-page article, and we recommend it as a very interesting read, particularly if you are interested in this dispute.