Ap­ple Runs into IPR Hur­dle with ‘SplitView’

Delhi HC or­ders co not to use SplitView on pe­ti­tion from soft­ware co Vy­ooh

The Economic Times - - Business Of Brands - Maulik.Vyas @times­group.com

Mum­bai: Ap­ple Inc, fa­mous for fe­ro­ciously pro­tect­ing its de­sign and other IPR rights, has been caught in a le­gal wran­gle in In­dia.

The Delhi High Court has di­rected the US tech gi­ant not to use the name ‘SplitView’ in any of its prod­ucts or ser­vices such as iPad, iPhone or iOS op­er­at­ing sys­tem af­ter a lit­tle known Delhi-based soft­ware com­pany Vy­ooh moved court, al­leg­ing trade­mark vi­o­la­tion.

Vy­ooh, a ven­dor for Mi­crosoft, has claimed that it de­vel­oped a sim­i­lar soft­ware a decade ago in 2006. SplitView has been a pop­u­lar soft­ware that al­lows users to si­mul­ta­ne­ously work on mul­ti­ple win­dows on the user’s sin­gle com­puter screen.

Ap­ple has re­cently in­tro­duced an iden­ti­cal fea­ture with even the same name, but has tweaked the user in­ter­face, the com­pany claimed. Vy­ooh LLP and its promoter Ro­hit Singh had ap­proached the court, al­leg­ing that they have de­vel­oped the soft­ware pro­gramme which sold un­der the trade­mark ‘SplitView’.

The com­pany’s lawyers have ob­jected to Ap­ple us­ing the same name as the soft­ware doesn’t have its patent. The US com­pany, which will have to file its re­ply by May 9, has ap­pealed against the de­ci­sion, but its spokesper­son de­clined to com­ment. When con­tacted, Sh­we­tas­ree Majumder of Fidus Law Cham­bers, the firm rep­re­sent­ing Vy­ooh LLP in the case, con­firmed the or­der but re­fused to share fur­ther de­tails since the mat­ter is sub ju­dice. Last week, Ap­ple had ap­proached the di­vi­sion bench of the Delhi High Court, chal­leng­ing this or­der which later asked a sin­gle bench to hear the ar­gu­ments of Ap­ple as well.

“SplitView is not de­scrip­tive but had ac­quired dis­tinc­tive­ness and was as­so­ci­ated ex­clu­sively with the In­dian soft­ware de­vel­oper (plain­tiff),” Mustafa Safiyud­din, chair­man of Le­ga­sis Part­ners, said. “This or­der will send a strong mes­sage to multi­na­tional soft­ware com­pa­nies to re­spect the in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty rights of In­dian soft­ware de­vel­op­ers. It also sig­ni­fies the im­por­tance of trade­marks in the soft­ware field.”

The court re­stric­tion comes at a time when the iPhone maker plans to open its own stores in In­dia, one of its fastest grow­ing mar­kets that con­trib­uted nearly a bil­lion dol­lar in rev­enues. Two months ago, a jury in the US or­dered Ap­ple to pay $626 mil­lion in dam­ages af­ter find­ing that iMes­sage, FaceTime and other Ap­ple soft­ware in­fringed on another com­pany's patents. Vir­netX had ac­cused Ap­ple in 2012 of vi­o­lat­ing four of its patents, which mostly in­volve meth­ods for real-time com­mu­ni­ca­tions over the In­ter­net.

Even in the In­dian case, Singh al­leged that Ap­ple has vi­o­lated its trade­mark by of­fer­ing the soft­ware called Split View in its iO9 and OSX El Cap­i­tan. Hav­ing clean trade­mark and in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty (IP) are some of the key fac­tors that give the edge dur­ing any val­u­a­tion and hence many In­dian tech­nol­ogy com­pa­nies are be­com­ing more ag­gres­sive to­wards its pro­tec­tion. “More com­pa­nies are ask­ing us to cre­ate trade­mark, or logo, with the spe­cific in­sist on unique iden­tity,” said Tina Jain Me­hta, founder of bou­tique brand con­sult­ing firm Pineap­ple Con­sult­ing. “Ear­lier, this sec­tion of in­dus­try was not even part of most brand con­sul­tant’s clien­tele.”

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