Who will win the great ‘Mighty Mouse’ case?  CBS and Apple or Man & Machine?

“A tiny tech company based in Landover, Md. stirred the Mac blogosphere yesterday by filing a lawsuit against Apple [and CBS] over, of all things, the use of the name ‘Mighty Mouse,'” David Zeiler reports via blog for The Baltimore Sun.

“Man & Machine Inc., a private company with 20 employees, has sold a specialty mouse (it’s waterproof and chemical resistant) under the name ‘Mighty Mouse’ since March 2004,” Zeiler reports. “Apple, of course, introduced its own ‘Mighty Mouse’ in August 2005.”

“Knowing ‘Mighty Mouse’ is a famous crime-fighting cartoon figure, Apple simply sought permission to use the name from the company that owned the rights to the cartoon – CBS Corp.,” Zeiler reports. “CBS agreed and licensed the term ‘Mighty Mouse’ to Apple for use with its computer product.”

“Under U.S. trademark law, first use of a trademark generally carries the day. M&M could have saved itself a lot of trouble, however, had it filed for the ‘Mighty Mouse’ trademark in 2004,” Zeiler reports. “Instead, it no doubt contacted Apple to complain. Apple no doubt contacted its friends at CBS and lo and behold – CBS filed last July to trademark the term “Mighty Mouse” to describe a computer-pointing device.”

“When that trademark was published for opposition in December, M&M filed its own trademark application, citing first use as the basis for its counterclaim,” Zeiler reports. “The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has yet to rule on the dispute.”

Hold all bets
However, Zeiler reports, “CBS could argue the fame of ‘Mighty Mouse’ should prevent its unauthorized use by almost anyone else for almost any commercial purpose. If the court agrees, Apple wins by its having licensed the name from CBS. If the court sees things M&M’s way, Apple will… need to rechristen its mouse.”

More details in the full – and nicely thorough – article here.

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