iPhone App Dispute

In the (now notorious) Colorado case of InfoMedia, Inc. v. Air-O-Matic Inc. (Court Case Number: 1:09-cv-00302-ZLW), two makers of rival iPhone applications are in a trade-mark battle over the use of the phrase “Pull My Finger” in association with an application for the mobile device. InfoMedia uses the phrase “pull my finger” in its marketing and is seeking a declaration that the phrase is generic when applied to the product, and cannot function to distinguish Air-O-Matic.  Air-O-Matic counters that InfoMedia is riding its coat-tails by using the phrase.  Air-O-Matic has applied for registration of the phrase as a trade-mark, in association with “Computer application software for mobile phones”, though the application is encountering trouble because of the specimen that was filed. (They should have taken a screen-shot from iTunes.) In any event they’re both enjoying some additional press, which may have been the whole point to the dispute in the first place.

Battles between competing iPhone apps will become a feature of the legal landscape, and these cases trace their lineage to the old video-game disputes of the early 1980s:

  • Atari Inc. v. Williams, a 1981 case out of California, pitted Atari’s famous Pac-Man against a rival game, Jawbreaker.  The court found that the strategy of the Pac-Man game was not protectable.
  • Atari Inc v. Tyrom Inc., a 1982 case, decided that rival “Gobbleman” was infringing in its use of characters and design features; Pac-Man won that round.
  • Williams Electronics Inc. vs. Artic International Inc. , a 1982 case over the popular game “Defender”, established important principles in video game copyright infringement cases, and specifically determined that a player’s interaction with a game – such that the player is “creating” or “authoring” new scenes as the game is played – does not detract from the copyright protection afforded the game.

We’ve come a long way from Pac-Man… though 25 years later, that game retains a certain diginity when measured against the “Pull My Finger” fart-simulator.

Calgary – 14:45 MST 

No comments

No comments yet. Be the first.

Leave a reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.