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Apple Sued Over 'Animoji' Trademark
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.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.
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.
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.
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.