"Tick different": Swatch provokes legal dispute with Apple

Because Swatch uses the most famous Apple slogan in a modified way, judges become involuntary brand ambassadors.


In its current edition, Switzerland at the Weekend is certain: Swatch deliberately set itself up for a legal confrontation with Apple by using the slogan "Tick different". Launched in 1997, the slogan "Think different" is one of the most legendary and well-known claims in advertising history, and in the 1990s it heralded and accompanied Apple's rise from niche player to the world's most valuable brand.

Swatch has been using "tick different" for two years. At the time, Nick Hayek denied to the Handelszeitung an Apple context. Rather, it was a reference to the company's own past: "Always different, always new" was a claim made by the Swiss watchmaker in the eighties. The entry of "Tick different" in the trademark register made the provocation towards Cupertino perfect.

Involuntary brand ambassadors

The Zurich law firm Lenz & Staehelin, which prosecutes trademark infringements for Apple in Switzerland, then filed an objection with the Swiss Federal Institute of Intellectual Property - and was rebuffed. As a result, Apple is now taking the case to the Federal Administrative Court.

The judges would now become involuntary brand ambassadors if they negotiate the meaning of the slogan, finds Switzerland at the weekend. Because the case is not as clear-cut as it seems from Apple's point of view. The company must prove that the claim "Think different" has a brand awareness of over 50 percent in Switzerland. To do so, Apple would have to disclose the sales figures of the iMac, for example, because the slogan has been on every package for almost ten years.

The trademark teasing has a tradition

This is not the first time that Swatch has teased its superior competitor. In the past, the name "iSwatch" was protected in (supposedly) wise foresight to forestall a possible "iWatch". As we know, Apple finally named the watch Apple Watch.

In addition, Swatch has had the phrase "One more thing" entered in the trademark register - according to these words, Steve Jobs announced a world first at product presentations instead of a triviality. Apple has not yet been able to prevail in this dispute either, because Jobs is said not to have invented the saying himself, but to have taken it from the TV detective Columbo.

The irony of history: "Think different" is also a direct derivative of a competitor's claim: At the time, Apple referred to the "Think" claim of the computer giant IBM, which was overpowering at the time. (hae)

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