Apple Can't Use 'Apple' for Watches in Switzerland Due to Trademark

Apple can't use the word "Apple" or the image of an apple to promote or sell watches in Switzerland due to a 1985 trademark. According to Swiss site RTS (Google Translate) (via Re/code), the patent is good until December 5th, 2015—it would prevent Apple from marketing Apple Watch in that country.


Image Filed with Swiss "Apple" Trademark

The patent is owned by "Singapore magnate" William Leong, who also owns the Swiss Leonard Watches brand. It covers, "precious metals and their alloys and goods in these materials or coated therewith, not included in other classes, or jewelry, jewelry, stones precious stones, watches and timepieces."

Which pretty much covers Apple Watch.

What isn't known is if Apple has already worked out an agreement with Mr. Leong, or if Apple is simply going to wait out the trademark, which was filed with Switzerland's Federal Institute of Intellectual Property. It's also conceivable that Mr. Leong could renew the trademark, though no one in the know has commented on the topic.

Apple Watch is scheduled to launch on April 24th in nine countries, including Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, the UK, and the U.S. Not included is Switzerland.

The Swiss market is a tricky one for a product like Apple Watch. For one thing, it's a small country with a population of just 8.081 million as of 2013. It's also the center of the mechanical watchmaking universe, at least in terms of prestige and technology. That makes it a market with potential for symbolic importance, assuming Apple even cares about such things.

At the same time, Switzerland could easily be the hardest market for Apple to crack in the developed world. The Swiss love their mechanical watches, and they love their watchmaking industry. It's a source of pride and a significant contributor to Switzerland's gross domestic product.

That probably imposes a real ceiling on the amount Apple would be willing to pay to get rights to use its own name for watches in this market. Especially when they're available in nearby countries.