A little nominative trademark fair use might have saved these little gems from going right back to Costco, as gently used merchandise, with opened and not so gently mangled packaging to boot:

TyltBatteryImageLittle did I know when grabbing this impulse item at Costco over the weekend (without my expert child companions) that — after anxiously tearing open the packaging, plugging these babies in until they were full of juice, and then trying to charge my iPhone 6 with one — I’d discover with great disappointment, they are incompatible with my phone, they just don’t fit.

Not exactly a square peg and a round hole, but close enough.

Should I have been able to discern the incompatibility from the images on the packaging? Maybe, and perhaps my kids would have, but again, I was alone, without those who pay closer attention to those kinds of details, while maneuvering their hand held devices like ninja warriors.

Moreover, I searched high and low for words to communicate about compatibility, thought there might be a listing of branded products and models that work with these chargers, some helpful nominative fair use would have been nice, but none could be found.

Nowhere could I find verbiage on the packaging specifying the specifics of compatibility, just this definitive and prominent statement:

“Works with SMARTPHONES, TABLETS and all USB chargeable devices.”

I’ve always considered my iPhone 6 to be a smartphone, and I’m pretty sure it is a USB chargeable device too, so part of the subset within the universe of “all,” but I’m apparently a technology dunce. So, what’s my greater point?

Nominative trademark fair use is an important public service; and a legitimate need of brands that don’t want to have to deal with returned products and mangled packaging, especially when some of their shoppers might consider purchasing technology items without an accompanying minor.

As ubiquitous as Apple’s iPhone smartphones are, would it make sense to include at least some negative nominative fair use references?

Perhaps something like: “Does NOT work with Apple products” or “Incompatible with iPhone products” or “Don’t buy if you like Apple or iPhone products”?

Would Donald Trump be more likely to endorse these chargers with that kind of nominative fair use?

  • It does say “(Lightning cable not included)” on the packaging. The batteries themselves will work with an iPhone, since USB ports are standardized, you just need to use your own Lightning cable. The reason they don’t include a lightning cable is that Apple charges companies to have their cables certified as MFi, or Made For iPhone, and then charges a per-cable fee. The company making these is keeping their costs down by not adding MFi. A better made product would be MFi, and include a Lightning cable, but then you’re going to pay more for the difference. As-is though, it would still work with your iPhone, you just need to supply your own cable.

  • stevebaird

    Well, thanks much Cory, I’m glad our readers are so smart! Maybe there is hope yet before I return these little guys — I had never heard the term Lightning cable before, that is apparently an Apple federally registered trademark: http://tsdr.uspto.gov/#caseNumber=85670656&caseType=SERIAL_NO&searchType=statusSearch