With an existing Swiss trademark over the “Apple Watch” name – by a Singaporean no less – and a strong watchmaking industry, the upcoming Apple Watch might not be able to establish its ground in Switzerland.
Apple might face a roadblock if and when it attempts to use its upcoming Apple Watch to penetrate the Swiss market, home of the luxury watch business, and it’s all thanks to an unlikely source – a Singaporean businessman. According to The Straits Times, William Leong, the managing director of Leong Poh Kee, a Singapore-based regional distributor of luxury timepieces, is said to own the “Apple Watch” trademark in Switzerland.
The direct owner of the trademark is Leonard Timepieces, a Swiss watch company, which the Swiss media reported as being owned by “William Longe” – a misspelling of William Leong. The trademark gives Leonard Timepieces the exclusive rights to use the word “apple” and associated images of the fruit on jewelry, watches and precious stones.
Even though the trademark has been in-force since 1985 and can be renewed even after its expiration this December 5th, Apple could challenge it, based on the argument that the trademark has never been used in trade. The tech giant also has the financial and legal resources to slug it out in the courts, using the fact that no “Apple Watch” has been sold in Switzerland till date as ammunition. Or, they could simply buy out the trademark for an undisclosed sum.
But all this commotion could come to naught if Apple chooses not to launch the Apple Watch in Switzerland. According to Apple Insider, Switzerland has never been among Apple’s first wave of markets for new devices, only getting them during the second phase. This, despite Switzerland having the third-highest median household income in the world.
The Swiss watchmaking industry is also a sacred one, with nearly 60,000 people in employment in the industry that’s worth over $20 billion annually to the Swiss economy, and Apple might not have the means to crack the market, especially since traditional Swiss watchmaking brands such as Swatch and Tag Heuer have expressed interest to enter the smartwatch market. It might just be easier for Apple to focus on its main markets, such as the United States, where more than a million Apple Watches were sold on Friday at the pre-order.