Tech giant Apple fails to prevent Swatch from registering 'Tick Different' as watchmaker's trademark

Apple's "Think Different" mark was used in its successful Emmy-award winning advertising campaign which ran for five years from 1997. Swatch's "Tick Different" mark, which has not been used, referenced its longstanding association with timepieces.
Apple's "Think Different" mark was used in its successful Emmy-award winning advertising campaign which ran for five years from 1997. Swatch's "Tick Different" mark, which has not been used, referenced its longstanding association with timepieces.PHOTO: IPOS

SINGAPORE - US tech giant Apple Inc has failed to stop Swiss watch company Swatch from registering "Tick Different" as a trademark, which Apple had argued segues too closely to its own "Think Different" trademark.

In decision grounds issued on Aug 14, principal assistant registrar of the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (IPOS) See Tho Sok Yee found that when compared as wholes, the marks were more dissimilar than similar.

Noting the two marks were unlikely to cause confusion among consumers, she added: "I struggle to see how there is any benefit to be had from riding on Apple's goodwill and reputation and from any favourable association with Apple of the 'Think Different' mark."

Apple's "Think Different" mark was used in its successful Emmy-award winning advertising campaign which ran for five years from 1997, and featured famous people such as Albert Einstein and Martin Luther King as a tribute. This helped boost the Apple brand.

The mark was also used in packaging for its iMac computers sold here next to another trademark "Macintosh".

Swatch's "Tick Different" mark, which has not been used, referenced its longstanding association with timepieces. Swatch has a worldwide presence and its corporate group owns a stable of Swiss watch brands including Omega, Tissot and Swatch.

Its applications to register "Tick Different" were filed in Singapore in 2015 for use in relation to items like electronic payment processing as well as goods made of precious metals, among other items.

Apple, represented by lawyer Amanda Lim in opposing the registration, argued the two marks were highly similar due to the same syllabic structure and number of words. With the same ending and almost the same beginning, they are visually and aurally similar, she added.

Apple highlighted that its goods were sold in Singapore since 2009 with the trademark, to underline its claim the mark is well-known in Singapore.

Swatch, defended by lawyer Denise Loh, countered the visual, aural and conceptual differences between "Tick" and "Think" made the marks more dissimilar than similar.

In dismissing Apple's challenge after considering all the pleadings, evidence and submissions, Ms See said: "The conceptual dissimilarity of the marks is the starkest, and bears heavily on the impression of the average consumer.

"With this, accompanied by visual and aural dissimilarities to a lesser extent, I am persuaded that the average consumer would conclude the marks, are, overall, more dissimilar than similar."

She ruled that as Apple's opposition had failed on all grounds, the two trademark applications from Swatch will proceed to registration.