Lawsuit against Apple for use of term ‘Unix’ in Mac OS X marketing winds through courts

“Apple Computer is being sued by The Open Group, the San Francisco company that claims ownership of the Unix trademark, for using the term Unix in conjunction with its Mac OS X operating system without a license. Apple has countersued, asking a judge to declare that the trademark is invalid, because the term Unix has become generic. Though initiated nearly 18 months ago, the case has not yet gone to trial. According to a motion filed with the court Tuesday, both companies want to have an exchange of factual documents completed by August, with a trial sought for February,” reports Ian Fried, Staff Writer, CNET

Fried continues, “The Open Group, also known as X/Open, sued Apple in December 2001 alleging, among other things, that Apple had infringed on its trademark. The case, filed in U.S. District Court in San Jose, Calif., has been winding its way through the courts, with the parties still in the discovery process. Months of mediation meetings ended without a settlement, according to The Open Group.

“Since introducing Mac OS X in March 2001, Apple has consistently touted the Unix underpinnings as part of its marketing of the operating system. Apple’s Web site, for example, has a page devoted to the Unix base of the OS, including a logolike GIF that shows a metal plate bearing the words ‘Unix Based.’ ‘That’s kind of the one that we are least fond of,’ said Open Group Chief Operating Officer Steve Nunn, who notes that the group has had a similar Unix license logo of its own for some time,” Fried reports.

“The Open Group wants Apple to have Mac OS X undergo testing to certify that it complies with its standards for software bearing the Unix name, it also wants Apple to pay a fee. The Open Group says the costs to license the name are reasonable, based on the size of the company and the rough number of copies of the software Apple sells. In any case, no company is required to pay more than $110,000, said Graham Bird, vice president of marketing for The Open Group,” writes Fried.

“‘Apple would be at the top of that range because they ship a lot of units,’ Bird said. ‘It’s not like we are talking about bankrupting the company.’ Apple argues it should be free to use the term as it sees fit, noting that there are many flavors of Unix, including FreeBSD and that one should not have to submit to The Open Group’s testing to use the term,” writes Fried.

“‘Apple does not use the term Unix as a trademark in connection with Apple’s product,’ the company said in court papers seen by CNET ‘Apple accurately uses the generic term Unix merely to identify or describe an aspect or feature of Apple’s Mac OS X operating system. This is consistent with past and current industry standards,'” Fried reports.

Full article here.


  1. They just sound like jealous geeks to me. I think someone is trying to kick Apple out of the UNIX Geek Country Club.

    The fact is that no other UNIX workstation or server maker has to get their system certified by these idiots, so why should Apple have to? Mac OS X is more UNIX than Linux is, but there are open-source things in Solaris or AIX that don’t work well on other UNIX platforms (including Mac OS X and Linux), so how can there be a common certification to be called UNIX?

    I thought being based on standard BSD or standard System V UNIX was good enough, but if it isn’t then maybe IBM, Sun, HP, SGI, and other UNIX computer makers should be included in this lawsuit. Yeah, that isn’t going to happen, so this frivolous lawsuit should be thrown out of court NOW.

  2. I thought I remember, shortly after OS X came out (the beta?) that Apple did finally do the work to achive real Unix certification or whatever. What was that, then?

    Also, are they going after other companies, too? I seem to remember recently that someone is suing lots of Unix companies.

  3. You know what? Apple freakin’ does this crap to EVERYONE – developers, website operators, etc.
    About time they got a taste of their own BS – assuming that they DIDN’T do their due diligence…

  4. It’s totally frivolous. The Open Group has done nothing (since its inception) to validate itself as a “defender” of a Unix standard. It’s a particularly lame attempt to fill a void as the standard bearer. I’ve yet to see anyone take them seriously.

    Btw, next week, I’m starting an organzation which will validate macaroni and cheese. I don’t think Kraft measures up, so get ready to write me a check, boys.

  5. I think the key issue would be how has Apple’s marketing campaign injured or harmed this other company. Are people confused and think they are getting software from the the Open Group when they are really buying an Apple package with a big leopard print X on the front? Get a life, Open Group! You’re just being a bunch of greedy, money-grubbing idiots. I hope the court makes you pay for Apple’s legal costs.

  6. Almost every commercial UNIX vendor rebadges it to avoid this issue — Irix, AIX, AU/X (uh, wasn’t that Apple’s name)? Apple is on shakey ground because it flies in the face of their own past defence of “misuse” of their name. But that’s their standard, and it might be a good thing if they won this one, to stop other “frivolous” lawsuits — like any future ones they were contemplating. Funny how this issue cuts both ways: if I use an Apple logo in a way they don’t like, they get upset. Apple Records gets upset about the Apple music store, and they don’t see why …

  7. > The fact is that no other UNIX workstation or server maker
    > has to get their system certified by these idiots, so why
    > should Apple have to?


    All those companies pay money to TOG to certify their systems (ie Unix/98). TOG is well within their rights to protect their trademark, they have to or they lose it.

  8. Well, well, well…

    I think the open group is blowing smoke..

    Here is a hard reality for the industry to be aware of.

    If you add up all the Unix and Linux machines other than OS X in the world doing “actual” work, they add up to about 3 million machines. Theres a lot of smoke around Linux and a lot of wannabe geeks have downloaded it, installed it and then booted into Windows, so they don’t count as production machines. As of January, Apple had deployed about 5 million copies of OS X and that number is now growing by about 1 million units a quarter. By 2005 there will be 12-13 million Mac OS X machines and maybe 3.5 million other *nix machines doing actual work. Apple will have about 80% marketshare for *nix which will pretty much qualify it as the de facto standard *nix.

  9. Give us a break, there are dozens of different variations of “Unix” that have been put out over past years. Most of them are open source, try and tell the Linux folks, one of the better forms of Unix, that they have to conform to the rules of Open source, (who the hell came up with that name}. Really smacks of a group of rip off artists. With court cases of this kind on the increase, it’s about time that the rip off boys be fined out of existance. In this country money talks and bullsh!t walks, Apple has several billion in ready cash. Wonder how much the trash group has. Apple over the years has given the computer world many firsts. What has the Open Group (god I hate that name) given us. Some Dweb or group of Dwebs is trying to force their rules on the rest of the world. Hum, kinda sounds like M$.

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