Apple fights Kiwi over letter 'i'

CHRIS GARDNER
Last updated 05:00 10/08/2012
Hayden Crowther shows off his driPhone
PETER DRURY/Fairfax NZ
STAYING DRY: Hayden Crowther shows off his driPhone, a waterproof case for smartphones.

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A Hamilton inventor who is locked in a legal trademark battle with United States technology giant Apple has the peace of mind that his legal costs will be paid - but only if he wins.

Hayden Crowther has been in dispute with the company since January when Apple told him it wanted more time to object to the name of his waterproof and shockproof case for smartphones which he named driPhone.

Apple Inc has paid an undisclosed sum of money into an account as security to be used to pay the costs if Crowther wins his trademark dispute.

The security deposit, which is normal in such disputes, comes because Mr Crowther insisted upon it when Apple asked for more time to object to his trademark application.

The original letter of objection from Apple came seven months after Mr Crowther launched the driPhone case at the Hutchwilco New Zealand Boat Show in Auckland.

Later, Apple said it had no option but to protect its iPhone brand by opposing Mr Crowther's application to register the driPhone name in New Zealand.

It asked him to change the 'i' in his product's name to 'y'.

"If it's about the 'i', how come there are other 'i' trademarks out there? Some, like the iWires and iRig and iKaraoke, are even sold in Apple stores," Mr Crowther said.

He suspects Apple will launch a waterproof phone in the future.

"They will be looking for a new name and it will be driPhone. I suspect that's what they are trying to do.

"The fact is that there are 160 million iPhone 4s and iPhone 4Ss out there and around 30 million have been purchased by insurance companies because they have been destroyed. Our product is designed to prevent around 90 per cent of those failures."

Mr Crowther has moved manufacturing from China to Hamilton so as to maintain control of the driPhone manufacturing process, and is on the verge of launching a redesigned product as well as similar cases for other portable computing devices such as the iPad.

There's also interest, from international distributors, for a similar product for Android-based tablet computers, he said.

Alex Waldron, Apple's Australia based public relations manager, said the company had no comment on the case.

Apple has until September 6 to file its evidence with Intellectual Property Office of New Zealand.

chris.gardner@waikatotimes.co.nz

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