Hamilton inventor pips giant Apple

KEEPING DRY: Waikato Times reporter Rob Kidd goes to extremes to put the waterproof and shockproof "driPhone" case  to the test.
KEEPING DRY: Waikato Times reporter Rob Kidd goes to extremes to put the waterproof and shockproof "driPhone" case to the test.

A Hamilton man is preparing for a David and Goliath fight with global giant Apple.

The Apple Corporation has told Hayden Crowther it may object to his use of the word driPhone, which he is using to market a waterproof and shockproof phone case for Apple's iPhones and Google's Android smartphones.

Mr Crowther is already selling his nifty phone cases, which were inspired by his work in the film industry.

Mr Crowther yesterday received a letter from a Wellington patent attorney instructed by the world's biggest technology company, based in Cupertino, California, telling him it wanted more time to consider objecting to the name of his product, launched in May 2011.

Mr Crowther's application for the driPhone trademark was advertised on September 30, 2011, and objectors were given until December 30 to oppose it.

Yesterday's letter, dated December 23, said: "We would be grateful if you would consent to an extension of time of one month from 30 December 2011 for filing a notice of opposition in this matter. If you are unwilling to consent please let us know as soon as possible."

Mr Crowther, who has sold thousands of driPhone cases on his website, driphone.co.nz, and through boutique stores, had no luck trying to contact Apple's lawyers yesterday, but had no intention of giving them extra time.

"I have got through, but a message was saying they are not in the office."

The letter was the first hint of any opposition Mr Crowther has had to the name.

"My product is driPhone, not iPhone, and they are trying to oppose it. They are just trying to scare me," he said.

"The only thing I can think of is that they have come up with a dry-phone case themselves or have plans to use the driPhone name. I would be interested to know what [the late Apple founder] Steve Jobs would say if he was still around. He would probably say `good on you'."

Other manufacturers, such as Belkin and Philips, make iPhone and iPad accessories which carry the names of Apple's products and Mr Crowther said he was no different.

Mr Crowther said he would seek legal advice.

Carrick Robinson, a partner at James & Wells Intellectual Property lawyers in Auckland, said Apple was entitled to ask for an extension under the rules and he expected they would probably get an extra month to object even if Mr Crowther said no.

Apple's request did not necessarily mean it would object. Asked whether he thought Apple would win its case, Mr Robinson said: "I am not so sure."

Apple spokeswoman Fiona Martin said Apple would not comment.