Icon Copyright - how'd they get away with that ?

I’m working on a product idea that utilises some of Apple’s iOS iconography. The whole idea wouldn’t work without it but I am concerned of falling foul to Apples legal department.

Anyone have any experience with this ?
I remember seeing this a while back and they are still selling them so I was curious if Apple would even care or not…


I guess I could re-hash the designs so it kind of looks like them but then I don’t how much it would need to be altered to not infringe on their copyright.

Any input greatly appreciated

If you are concerned and have something to lose, talk to a lawyer. Otherwise, go for it and hope for the best.

I’m confused by the question. What do you mean by, “How’d they get away with that?”

Icons are the exact type of thing meant for being copywritten. Getting them trademarked would be more of a challenge and then they’d be protected forever, but if anyone could do it, it would be Apple.

You’re basically saying “If I take artwork created by another person, resell it in a different form, would anyone care?”

The answer is yes - they would absolutely care, and you would more than likely be receiving a cease and desist, it would just be a matter of how long before someone actually saw the product you were selling.

You could create similar looking ones which might fly under the radar as well (just like knockoff Iphones do) but ultimately if the entire jist behind the product is leveraging “Look it’s something from an iPhone” to sell it, then you are going to be busted.

Even if the product is something totally irrelevant (like the coasters) you are leveraging their IP and art for your profit - and at no point would any legal team anywhere be OK with that.

It needs to be 30% different, whatever that means. I’d suggest different colors and tweaking the compositional elements at least, Apple has a powerful and assertive legal team.

My question related to the link I posted… as you can see from the images the coasters use the exact same graphics as the iphone app icons which is obviously owned by Apple. Would it be considered fair use because it’s kind of a parody ?

I can only assume that as it’s a niche product and sales are probably pretty slim Apple doesn’t care… if anything it’s advertising for them.

I think as I’m starting small and the product isn’t related to mobile phones or anything I’ll keep my fingers crossed. If it gets big… I may have to switch the artwork up a bit. If I did get a cease & desist… ah well, I’d probably frame it and put it on my wall :wink:

I just found this on Wikipedia…

“In Campbell v Acuff-Rose Music Inc[17] Supreme Court recognized parody as a fair use, even when done for profit.”

A parody (pronounced /ˈpærədi/; also called send-up, spoof, pastiche or lampoon), in current usage, is an imitative work created to mock, comment on, or trivialise an original work, its subject, author, style, or some other target, by means of humorous, satiric or ironic imitation.

With that in mind, would those iphone coasters be considered parody ?
Could it be classed as a physical parody of digital icons, a ironic imitation ?

Ah, got it. See, I was confused! :slight_smile:

As for fair use, I’m not a lawyer but I’m guessing those coasters wouldn’t qualify because they are 1) a product for sale that 2) uses nothing but artwork copywritten by apple.

See my other post above about the fair use of parody…

I did. I know that it can be used in for profit situations (I’m a big Girltalk fan), but profit is still a factor in the decision of fair use.

From the same wiki page:

" In determining whether the use made of a work in any particular case is a fair use the factors to be considered shall include:

  1. the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
  2. the nature of the copyrighted work;
  3. **the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
  4. the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.**

The fact that a work is unpublished shall not itself bar a finding of fair use if such finding is made upon consideration of all the above factors.[1]"

Another factor is quantity of the original works. The coasters are made up entirely of Apple icons. I think that combined with the for profit nature would disqualify them from fair use.

Also, just because it’s a physical product doesn’t mean it wouldn’t effect Apple’s profits. Everyone who uses Apple’s copywritten and trademarked images should have to pay a licensing fee to Apple. And for all we know that’s what this guy is doing.

I should say that I agree with everything you’ve said… I am certain it’s a copyright infringement.

The legalities of it all just interested me. I did actually e-mail the company to enquire about it… I’ll let you guys know if I hear anything back.