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Apple seeks intellectual property watchdog

Trademark counsel to chase product info leakers?

Apple's recent brush with Mac-oriented Web sites publishing details of upcoming product launches has clearly forced the company to rethink its legal support. To beef that up, the Mac maker this week launched a quest for someone to pursue any it suspects of infringing its trademarks and copyrights.

The company's IP Witch Finder General - or Trademark Counsel, as Apple's job spec. more mundanely describes the role - will be charged with seeking out - and sorting out - anyone who violates Apple's intellectual property, in the US and abroad.

"Responsibilities include US and International trademark and copyright searching, filing, prosecution, maintenance and enforcement, including trademark litigation," states Apple's job posting.

Yet the position may not be entirely about "enforcement". Another part of the spec. shows that the counsel will be responsible for "drafting and negotiating permissions, consents and assignments... Responding to third party/client questions and requests."

Do we have the basis for some kind of licensing programme here? Certainly plans to allow third-parties to license the Apple brand have emerged at the Mac maker in the past - most notoriously, perhaps, Gil Amelio's Apple Cafe concept for franchised cybercafes, and mooted tie-ins with Swiss watchmaker Swatch.

Current CEO Steve Jobs has in the past noted his respect for Sony and his desire to base Apple's broad branding strategy on that of the consumer electronics giant - to make Apple a household word for quality consumer products. As Sony has done with its Sony Style campaign, so Apple may be considering getting its name into non-core products to help promote its brand and thus sales of its computers. ®

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