A Geneva couple at war with Apple


A Geneva couple at war with Apple
The two second-hand dealers have won round one against the Californian giant.
Which is demanding that that they change the name of their gallery, the "Apple Boutique".

Jules and Aicha Petroz took over this location in the Rue de l'Ecole-de-Médecine in Geneva two years ago.
Image: Le Matin/Maxime Schmid

By Benjamin Pillard

It is not every day that the Federal Institute of Intellectual Property (IPI) rejects a company that broke the record for the largest market capitalization in history.
And yet: at the beginning of the year, this centre of competence of the Swiss Confederation ruled against Apple Inc. in a dispute dating from March 2017 with ... a Geneva antique dealer, Jules Petroz (56).
As a result, the multinational was ordered to pay a settlement of 1,200 Swiss francs as a share of the legal fees for the 50-year-old.

Inspired by the Beatles

At issue: the new company name chosen by this son of second-hand dealers (and faithful trader at the Plainpalais flea market since his childhood), namely the "Apple Boutique".
A Business also acting as an art gallery, which he opened two years ago with his wife Aicha, in rue de l'Ecole-de-Médecine.
"It took me ten years to find that name, after considering hundreds of ideas" says the Genevois.
"We had opted for Petroz Fine Art, when we were settled in the Pâquis district, but it was not a success, so we renamed it Petit Palais, which sounded too French ... "

Finally we came up with the idea for the "ideal" name, in tribute to the "Apple Boutique" ... of the Beatles.
A junk shop of clothing that the British quartet had launched in late 1967 in the heart of London, until its bankruptcy six months later.
The logo of the antique shop in Plainpalais is certainly an obvious nod to that hippie era.
"It's a typical font of that period, I wrote everything like that when I was a kid," said Jules Petroz, who drew his own visual logo in the form of a red apple and green leaf.
"It's a fruit that's no more American than Swiss - and we even have the myth of William Tell!"

Legally speaking, the symbol of original sin remained associated with the Beatles - via Apple Corp., the entity that operated the group's business - until Apple Computer (founded in 1977) became the exclusive owner of the brand, in 2007.
After a transaction estimated at 500 million dollars ...

"No confusion of products"

But according to the IPI, the California firm should not have all the rights to the use of its name by third parties.
"To my knowledge, Apple Inc. has not paid royalties to the writer of Genesis in the Bible!" Jokes the dealer's lawyer, Pierre Ochsner.
"The brand should be related to its products.
But here, there is no confusion possible: it is very quickly realized when visiting the website of my client that it is not an Apple Store!

For the lawyer, taking advantage of the reputation of one of the most powerful companies in the world to generate traffic for your own online sales platform does not constitute an infringement of intellectual property.
"This law serves to protect each others customers, so that there is no confusion about the different products.
In this case, my client has no intention of attracting Apple's customers!"

"If it was opportunistic, it would bring me hundreds of visitors a day or more," says Jules Petroz, who can prove that his website does not exceed 50 daily visits, two years after its launch.
We are far from the numbers reached in 2015 when the Genevois held the domain name Sotebys.com - without the "h" of the auction giant of works of art - which redirected the Internet to the site of the antique dealer.
Before giving in six months later, deterred by the threat of a fine that could have reached $ 100,000 ...

Negotiations with the Louvre

His best deal remains the cessation of the domain name Lelouvre.com in exchange for a lifetime pass for his wife and himself at the Paris museum, instead of the 10,000 Swiss francs that the Louvre proposed.
"Internet Domain Names were like the bitcoins of today, although I never tried to speculate: it has mostly cost me a lot of money," says the fifty year old, who says he is penniless.
"We have two girls and we have to fight to pay for our housing and health insurance; we make our living by clearing apartments and houses.
In any case, we have nothing to lose ... "

To date, the couple has not yet seen the color of the famous 1,200 Swiss francs owed by Apple Inc.; the firm having appealed against the verdict of the IPI, seizing two months ago the Federal Administrative Court (TAF).
"The economic risk for my clients is not very important," estimates Ochsner, who reveals that a personal appearance hearing will take place before the summer.
"I think we will win. The TAF rarely breaks the decisions of the IPI ... "
The judges of St. Gallen could reach a decision later this year.

(© Le Matin)

Created: 05.05.2018