Apple returned to its litigious ways today in dramatic fashion as they launched an infringement suit against the BBC’s flagship program, Doctor Who. The primary essence of the 426 page complaint filed the High Court in London is that the TARDIS infringes on Apple’s UK and Worldwide trademarks for its’ Time Machine backup product line. Specifically stated, ”The TARDIS is a rectangular box which facilitates access to fixed points in time. Therefore it infringes upon the registered Time Machine trademark as a device of functional equivalence” Apple has adopted a hardline stance of withholding all BBC royalty payments from the popular iTunes media store until the matter is resolved.
Upon being informed of the pending legal action, series re-creator Russell T. Davies is alleged to have begun laughing uncontrollably, steadfastly refusing to believe that the suit was in any way serious. A member of the BBC legal team was dismissive of the suit; “Doctor Who has been traversing time in a blue police call box since 1963. Unless Apple have imbued their product with actual time travel capabilities, the courts will most assuredly recognize our claim for prior affirmative use”.
There have been unconfirmed reports that Apple has been, somewhat uncharacteristically, engaging in settlement negotiations with the BBC. Reportedly, the offer on the table involves Apple paying a relatively modest “development” fee to the BBC in exchange for certain branding and product placement considerations to be implemented within the Doctor Who franchise. These are included, but not limited to: Exclusive use of Apple branded mobile products by the Doctor and any companions, 7 day exclusivity for all digital media on the iTunes store, and subtle branding on the TARDIS control panels. There are two points of contention that will invariably evoke the wrath of loyal fans. The first is Apple logo placement on the Sonic Screwdriver and the second involves changing the name of the Doctors intergalactic mobile home of 50 years to the iTARDIS.
In addition to intense interest form the legal and media communities; those focused on branding are closely monitoring the outcome of this case. “Apple’s legal battles have historically been waged against antithetical brands such as Samsung, Microsoft, and Google. If you are a fan of Apple, you’re probably not enamored of the other” notes branding expert Fred McClimans. “Apple is walking a very fine line here. Forcing people to choose between icons is rarely a recipe for success”.