The Fruit Union Suisse is 111 years old. For most of its history, it has had as its symbol a red apple with a white cross—the Swiss national flag superimposed on one of its most common fruits. But the group, the oldest and largest fruit farmer’s organization in Switzerland, worries it might have to change its logo, because Apple, the tech giant, is trying to gain intellectual property rights over depictions of apples, the fruit.
“We have a hard time understanding this, because it’s not like they’re trying to protect their bitten apple,” Fruit Union Suisse director Jimmy Mariéthoz says, referring to the company’s iconic logo. “Their objective here is really to own the rights to an actual apple, which, for us, is something that is really almost universal … that should be free for everyone to use.”
While the case has left Swiss fruit growers puzzled, it’s part of a global trend. According to the World Intellectual Property Organization’s records, Apple has made similar requests to dozens of IP authorities around the world, with varying degrees of success. Authorities in Japan, Turkey, Israel, and Armenia have acquiesced. Apple’s quest to own the IP rights of something as generic as a fruit speaks to the dynamics of a flourishing global IP rights industry, which encourages companies to compete obsessively over trademarks they don’t really need.