Apple Sued Over 'Animoji' Trademark

Apple is facing a lawsuit for infringing on an existing Animoji trademark, reports The Recorder. Animoji is the name Apple chose for the 3D animated emoji-style characters that will be available on the iPhone X.

The lawsuit [PDF] was filed on Thursday by law firm Susman Godfrey LLP on behalf of Enrique Bonansea, a U.S. citizen living in Japan who owns a company called Emonster k.k. Bonansea says he came up with the name Animoji in 2014 and registered it with the United States Patent and Trademark Office in 2015.

Since 2014, Bonansea has been using the Animoji name for a messaging app available in the iOS App Store. The lawsuit alleges Apple was aware of the Animoji app and attempted to purchase the Animoji trademark ahead of the unveiling of the iPhone X.
This is a textbook case of willful, deliberate trademark infringement. With full awareness of Plaintiffs' ANIMOJI mark, Apple decided to take the name and pretend to the world that "Animoji" was original to Apple. Far from it. Apple knew that Plaintiffs have used the ANIMOJI mark to brand a messaging product available for download on Apple's own App Store.

Indeed, Apple offered to buy Plaintiffs' mark but was rebuffed. Instead of using the creativity on which Apple developed its worldwide reputation, Apple simply plucked the name from a developer on its own App Store. Apple could have changed its desired name prior to its announcement when it realized Plaintiffs already used ANIMOJI for their own product. Yet Apple made the conscious decision to try to pilfer the name for itself--regardless of the consequences.
Bonansea's Animoji app has been downloaded more than 18,000 times, he says, and it continues to be available in the App Store. The app is designed to send animated texts to people.

In the summer of 2017, ahead of the unveiling of the iPhone X, Bonansea was allegedly approached by companies with names like The Emoji Law Group LLC who attempted to purchase his Animoji trademark, and he believes these entities were working on behalf of Apple.

He opted not to sell, though he says he was threatened with a cancellation proceeding if he did not. On September 11, just prior to the debut of the iPhone X, Apple did indeed file a petition with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to cancel the Animoji trademark.

Apple's Animoji

Bonansea originally trademarked the name under a Washington corporation called "emonster, Inc," a company that is now defunct. Apple's petition to cancel argued that the "emonster Inc" company did not exist when the Animoji registration was initially filed, and Bonansea claims that it was a mistake the trademark was not filed under the name of his Japanese company, Emonster k.k. A cancellation proceeding for the trademark appears to still be pending.

The lawsuit suggests that Bonansea planned to release an updated Animoji app at the end of 2017, but had to rush to submit a new app "so that Apple did not further associate the Animoji mark in the public's minds with Apple." He claims this has caused suffering and "irreparable injury" as he has had to rush to market with an unfinished product. Bonansea is seeking preliminary and permanent injunctions to prevent Apple from using the Animoji name along with damages and attorney fees.

Tag: Animoji

Top Rated Comments

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30 months ago
Unlike most of these lawsuits, this one seems reasonable.

I am sure the trademark/IP owner in this case would be able to work out a reasonable settlement, likely already factored in by the legal team at Apple when they used it.

Apple would have done a search on the name before using it and did so fully aware of the owners rights to it.
Rating: 62 Votes
30 months ago
Whenever Tim Cook tries to act like a progressive, remember he knew he was stealing this trademark from the little guy and could care less.
Rating: 45 Votes
30 months ago
I don't think that people understand the significance of this case. Even by conservative estimates, the human race will communicate exclusively by emojis by 2022. Whoever controls Animojis will control the world. #sadpanda
Rating: 21 Votes
30 months ago
THIS is Apple. Not that magical, is it?
Rating: 17 Votes
30 months ago
His app icon is a mixture of the iOS messages icon and an emoji designed by Apple. I think Apple should also sue him ❤️
Rating: 16 Votes
30 months ago
Oh jeez, every time I open my browser Im seeing another story about someone trying to cash in by suing Apple, except..........Apple seems to be wrong on this one. I guess they tried to do the right thing and buy name off the guy. So he didnt sell, ok. The solution isnt to just take the name anyway!!! Come on, Apple. Your better than this. Or at least you claim to be. Leave him with his name. Call it Emojimations, or a million other things you could come up with. Its just a dumb little feature. Dont lower yourself over this.
Rating: 16 Votes
30 months ago
Didn't you guys read the article?
It wasn't Tim that called him and said: "Hi, we love your app, we would like to use parts of it (not telling that the trademark is all they want) in an upcoming product. How about we buy it including the trademark for $10000?".
I know I would've taken that any day and just gone "wohooo!"
No, instead, Apple tries using some third party, Apple owned company, to wiggle it out of his hands, either buy it cheap or actually scare him to release it.
When he didn't want to, Apple just decided that they have the better lawyers and so, will win this whatever happens, never mind the little guy. It's cheaper to continue to pay the attorneys which they already pay for, than changing all the documentation and ads and everything mentioning the trademark.
The little guy will never win though, for Apple have money to pay attorneys to the end of the world and they will never, ever stop appealing, whatever the outcome, in any court.
Rating: 11 Votes
30 months ago
Not the first time.
Rating: 11 Votes
30 months ago

What a mess and your think Qualcomm was the guilty one. If this gets out of hand, it could delay the X even longer if Apple has to pull the feature.

Not a chance. They’d rename it or at the very worst they’d pull it like messages in the cloud. There’s no way they’d halt the release of an entire device because an iMessage feature shares a name with another app. If anything they’ll throw $25 mil at the guy and make it up in seconds on 10/27 and his life is set.
Rating: 10 Votes
30 months ago

Does anyone else find it amazing that a company as big as Apple tries to buy the rights from this guy, are turned down, and Apple’s response is “**** it. Let’s go with the name anyway”? Also, 18k download in a few years and the guy isn’t for sale? Anyone else would be over the moon being offered a buyout with paltry numbers like that.

Absolutely not defending Apple. I just feel like that would be the absolute stupidest thing Apple could do in the situation.

Does anybody else find it amazing that none of us know what he was offered by Apple, but some are assuming it was a lot of money?
Rating: 9 Votes

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