Are Apple’s Headphones a Rip-off?

Apple's EarPods

Apple’s EarPods

This time Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) is on the receiving end of a lawsuit, as the trademark for one of its most-recently released products bares strong similarity to another company’s trademark.

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The dispute is over Randolph Divisions’ hearing aid, named “HearPod,” and the headphones that Apple launched with the iPhone 5, called “EarPods.” The two names have a clear resemblance and could even be mistaken for the other if said quickly or quietly.

Randolph Divisions didn’t fail to notice the similarity; last week it filed a lawsuit in the Hawaii District Court in Honolulu. Its trademark on HearPod has been registered for more than 5 years already, while Apple’s EarPods were only introduced in the latter half of last year.

Apple does hold a US trademark for “EarPods” and “Apple EarPods,” which could offer legitimacy to Apple’s side of the case when and if it goes to trial…

However, Randolph Division has another ace up its sleeve. The domain names Earpods.com and Earpod.com are not owned by Apple. A visit to Earpods.com simply shows that the domain name has been registered to TUCOWS INC. since early 2004, and the latter website redirects to HearPod’s website.

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It’s not yet clear how much is at stake for Apple, as the case has yet to get underway. Fortunately for the company, the trademark in question is just for one of its peripheral devices, not for one of its flagships — like the iPhone — and may not have too significant of an impact on the company in the event of a loss.

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