Putting aside, for now, the unsettled question of who currently owns the iPad trademark, and Dan’s perspective on Apple’s trademark clearance strategies, from last week, look at what our finely-tuned e-mail spam filter just snagged:

It is a similar story to my previous Free Dell XPS Laptop Spam Scam? blog post from last December. Here, however, the Apple, iPad, and the (possible) iPad configuration trademarks, are the newest form of brand bait for what appears to be an ongoing type of spam e-mail scam. They’re fast. It only took about two weeks after Apple’s announcement of the iPad for these folks to bait their electronic hook with the newest branding lure.

By the way, how is it that these folks can make the free offer before Apple’s iPad tablet is even available to the public? As of today, Apple still has a notify me page, if you’d like to "be among the first to receive iPad." So, doesn’t the present unavailability of the iPad add to the misleading nature of the above advertisement because it seeks "testers" for this "new" product?

What do you think, misleading advertising, fair use of Apple’s intellectual property?

This story also appears related to the topic covered in my previous Is Wal-Mart Giving Away Free $1,000 Gift Cards? blog post too.

What do these unsolicited e-mail programs have in common? Well, besides the fact that they all appear to originate from Canada (for reasons unknown to me), they use well-known, if not famous brands to attract attention online and convince you to supply them with your e-mail address. Really, would anyone pay even an ounce of attention to any of these e-mail spam solicitations without the unauthorized use of these popular brand names and images?

In an apparent attempt to avoid misleading anyone and confusion, of course, as was the case with the Free Dell XPS offer and the Wal-Mart $1,000 Gift Card offer, the Apple iPad ad offers a purported disclaimer:

The advertisers in this email are not affiliated with any of the above brands.

This is a third party advertisement sent to you by the list owner. If you no longer wish to receive email from this advertiser, please write Reward Group 191 7 West 4th Avenue, Suite 279 Vancouver, B.C. VJ6-1M7 or visit our email removal site by click here.

If you do not wish to receive correspondence from the list manager you will need to follow the unsubscribe instructions provide by the list manager on how to remove you from their list.

Who are the advertisers? Who is the list owner? It says the advertisers are not affiliated with any of the brands, so does that mean the list owner is? Does this disclaimer do the job with claims relating to likelihood of confusion as to source, affiliation, sponsorship, and approval?

Even in the unlikely event it does, what about claims for initial interest confusion? Where is the disclaimer for that additional type of unlawful trademark confusion? And, since there is a reasonable claim of trademark fame for many of these brands, is it even possible to have a disclaimer that avoids a state or federal dilution claim concerning a famous mark?

  • Randall Hull

    When I saw this ad my curiosity got the best of me and I clicked through. It is clearly misleading and, from my limited understanding, doesn’t qualify as fair use. Like you, I am puzzled by the Canadian origins. Perhaps the laws are more lenient in the Great White North.
    Do you think Apple will take action?