Apple guns for NZ inventor

CHRIS GARDNER
Last updated 05:00 21/02/2014
Hayden Crowther and his driPhone
PETER DRURY/Fairfax NZ
'NO CONFUSION': Hayden Crowther shows off his driPhone.

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Apple Inc is taking a second bite at a Hamilton inventor.

The Cupertino, California, company founded by Steve Jobs, lost its two-year battle in December to stop Hayden Crowther from selling his waterproof driPhone smartphone cases.

But Crowther said he had just heard that Apple was appealing to the Intellectual Property Office of New Zealand (IPONZ) ruling which ordered Apple to pay his $2950 court costs.

Crowther said Apple was maintaining, in the documents he has been served, that the driPhone name amounted to "passing off" and was likely to deceive consumers or cause confusion.

"They are taking up the option to go the High Court," a battle-weary Crowther told the Waikato Times.

"I have been served the paperwork which is really pushing the same argument back at IPONZ."

A preliminary hearing has been set in Wellington for March 10.

"I will be looking after it myself, just because of the huge expense, rather than hiring a lawyer," Crowther said.

To date the case had cost him more than 10 times the $2950 in costs he was awarded in December.

Crowther, a former cameraman who came up with the idea while working with Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks on the Band of Brothers': Pacific television series, has not sat on his hands since Apple first raised its objections to his brand name which it says is similar to its iPhone name.

"I am pushing forward with my business and checking out the products," the Hamilton inventor said.

He has been to China where he has developed two new driPhone cases for the latest iPhone models.

He hopes to crowd source $70,000 worth of funding towards the project through Kickstarter.com.

"It's a very big project, very technical and tricky."

Crowther thought the case was cut and dried.

Assistant commissioner of patents and trademarks Jane Glover found, in December, that the driPhone and iPhone names were not sufficiently similar to cause confusion in the marketplace. "The prefix ‘dri' looks and sounds quite different to the prefix ‘i'," she ruled.

"I have got the Trade Mark for Mexico and Australia and they have not opposed those," he said.

"Are they opposing it here because they think New Zealanders are more likely to be confused. It just does not seem right.

"It's had a huge effect on the business and me.

"It's a huge disruption.

"But I have also had huge support in the last two years."

Apple did not respond to a request for comment.

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- Waikato Times

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