iPhone The Trademark Killer
The iPhone is such a dominant force that it is now affecting the trademarks of major corporations, including banks, credit card companies and mobile operators.
The major point of the tobacco plain packaging lawsuit brought against the Australian Government was of trademark. The tobacco companies argued their product wasn’t just encompassed by the thing they produced, but by its brand as well. If you took away the brand, the company would suffer. Thankfully, Australia prevailed.
In a less cancer-causing way, iPhone is doing this to Visa and Mastercard. With Apple Pay, the packaging is gone, wrapped in a shiny, generic layer of iPhone goodness. You barely see the ‘card’ pop up when you make a transaction.
I assume Samsung Pay works similarly.
Credit cards are complex beasts, each transaction isn’t automagically sent to them, but through intermediaries, bank routeing companies, banks and eventually to Visa/Mastercard.
But what of their brand, what of their trademarks? That’s what has been interesting to watch over the last few years of Apple Pay; the credit card companies just sat idly by (by my estimation) while Apple ate their trademarks.
Amex Centurion (AKA Black Amex) used to be the standard status symbol for credit coolness. Now, not so much.
In a funny development, Visa has recently started a wearables advertising campaign. Apparently, their brand means something again, and we should all go out and get ourselves a wristband.
And then, of course, the big banks tried to argue they were being bullied by Apple and should be able to negotiate as a
cartel collectively to thwart the mean Cupertino company.
This move was less about trademark and more about fees. They didn’t want Apple getting a cut. Though, letting your customers use non-branded apps is totally a trademark issue, even if they didn’t fight on those grounds.
A few years ago it was reported that Apple was planning to do away with sim cards. It was quickly quashed, but the idea remains and will come back.
What are sim cards for anyway these days? Certainly not for your contacts, ala 1998 when there was a hard maximum of the number of people in your sim card.
And don’t try to tell me that somehow the sim card is special as only it connects to the mobile network of choice.
We know that’s just not true.
Go out on the highway and see that ‘SOS only’ message pop up. That’s the ‘you have reception, but not with your carrier’ message.
In short, sim cards don’t need to exist anymore. Apple keeps them, for now, because they didn’t want to fight that particular battle.
Sometime soon, the sim card is going away, replaced with some kind of phone registration system. Kind of like signing up to a new wifi station like you do at a hotel or library.
The phone companies were worried, as should the credit card companies, that if it was easy for a customer to switch or worse(!) have multiple accounts, the software could determine, depending on what country you were in, or what time of day, which network to use.
Google Voice offered this promise but hasn’t as yet materialised. Perhaps because iPhone still needs a sim card?
This has all been about trademarks or losing the value of them. But the point is actually about genercisation – when a company’s trademark on their product becomes ubiquitous to a point where the word of their product becomes a generic name for the thing it does.
That sentence was hard. Think of it this way: If I say I am going to Google something, you know I mean to search online for something.
Now, Google has such market dominance that to Google probably means to actually use Google Search, but this logic applies to using your credit card and to using a mobile carrier.
Apple is the wrapper, your trademark matters none to them. They are making credit cards, and soon mobile carriers compete on the merits of their products, not on the billions they spend on their brands.
There are two winners here, Apple and the consumer. Apple makes money, of course, and the consumers, who are often duped by pretty brands and messaging to ignore rates, features, coverage and the like get a better deal.