Apple's lawyers have got their knickers in a twist over an ad campaign by outdated watch company Swatch.
The hapless legal-beagles are unhappy about use of the phrase "Tick Different" on a new ad for Swatch's Bellamy range of watches, which include NFC (near-field communication) chips and work with Visa to let you pay for goods with your watch.
Apple is upset because it used the grammatically incorrect phrase "Think Different" in a series of ads in 1997 and 1998.
And so last week the Cupertino idiot-tax operation appealed to a Swiss court, claiming that Swatch was violating its trademark and that the "Tick Different" ad would confuse folks – even though the original ads came out 20 years ago and Apple's use of the phrase ended in 2002 (notwithstanding its attention-grabbing website home pages when famous people have died).
There is, of course, no irony in Apple suing Swatch for riding its coat tails when Apple's ads represent one of the greatest appropriations of other people's reputations in history.
The Think Different ads were dominated by pictures of legendary figures, from Pablo Picasso to Gandhi, Edison, Miles Davis and Frank Sinatra – but with an Apple logo and the words "Think Different" tucked away in a corner.
As far as anyone is aware, none of those people had anything to do with Apple's computer, but that didn't stop Dead Steve Jobs' marketing department from using their fame and global status to boost its own products.
It may also be worth noting that the "Think Different" phrase was itself developed from ads run by IBM that featured the single word "Think."
Of course, Swatch is not being entirely upfront either. Its CEO Nick Hayek has claimed any similarity between the two is coincidental and claims it was born from a Swatch ad in the 1980s – when Swatch was actually a thing – that had the phrase "Always different, always new."
Which is of course entirely believable.
Thinking differently? Apple angry that Swatch is misappropriating someone else's image and reputation (ummm...)
This is not the first time Swatch and Apple have locked horns over watches. Last year, Swatch won its two-year fight to stop Apple from trademarking the name "iWatch" – something it claimed was too close to its "iSwatch" trademark.
Apple initially said it would appeal the decision, but in the end decided to call its over-priced, iPhone-dependent tech failure of a smartwatch the "Apple Watch" instead.
Apple was not happy. And when it launched its Apple Watch, none other than godhead Jonny Ive said with calculated joy that Switzerland would be in "deep shit" because it was so amazingly brilliant. (Spoiler: it wasn't and it isn't.)
That in turn caused Swatch's intellectual property lawyers to embark on some expert trolling by trademarking the phrase – we kid you not – "Swatch One More Thing."
That enables Swatch to use Steve Jobs' famous "one more thing" catchphrase in its advertisements and products – something that Apple actually does continue to use at its hype-fest-gasm product launches.
So, while it is possible that Apple lawyers believe "Tick Different" is a flagrant abuse of their company's signature tagline, it's more likely that the notoriously thin-skinned company simply saw an opportunity to give Swatch a kicking – especially since they are increasingly competing with one another. Although this is of course just a single ad, not the name of an actual product.
In case you're interested, the Swatch Bellamy range is a typical Swatch watch with an NFC chip. It doesn't connect to the internet and costs around $95. Which actually makes it a very nice alternative to the Apple Watch, which starts at $269 but goes much, much higher.
That said, the Bellamy was launched in 2015, relaunched in 2016, and still hasn't picked up much speed in 2017. It's still only available in Switzerland and China. ®