Trademarked Slogan: Think Different

Although Apple no longer says, “Think different,” the deliberately ungrammatical slogan is an important part of the company’s history. It created the image of rebelliousness and creativity that still define Apple today.

History of Apple

Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak were college dropouts in California who founded Apple Computers on April 1, 1976.

They shared a vision of computers as user-friendly devices that could help people live better. They wanted to create computers that were easy to use and small enough to fit in the average home.  These ideas were radical at the time, but their vision has become reality.

They famously began their computers in Jobs’ family’s garage. The original Apples called Apple 1, didn’t have monitors or keyboards. In 1977, they introduced the Apple 2. By 1978, Apple had annual sales of more than $100 million. In 1980, the company went public.

Apple logo

Famous Ad Campaigns and Slogans

Apple has had many noteworthy ad campaigns. In 1984, it released a Super Bowl ad that depicted IBM and other computer companies as tools of a dystopian future. In the ad, an Apple computer became the symbol of freedom. Directed by movie director Ridley Scott, the ad and made a huge impression on the public.

Most of the early advertising campaigns built on the idea that Apple was the underdog against bigger computer companies. In 1986, the company said it would give you “the power to be your best.” A 1994 series of ads pitted an old-fashioned PC user against a hip young Mac user. None of them, however, had the lasting impact of the Think Different campaign.

How It Happened

In 1997, Apple was in a sales downturn. With its explosive growth, the company couldn’t set itself apart from its competitors. Workers were demoralized, and the company didn’t have any new products to promote. Steve Jobs turned to the advertising agency Chiat Day to come up with a new campaign and a new direction.

An article for the Atlantic reveals that the slogan was the brainchild of copywriter Craig Tanimoto. “IBM has a campaign out that says ‘Think IBM’ (it was a campaign for their ThinkPad), and I feel Apple is very different from IBM. So I felt ‘Think Different’ was interesting. I then thought it would be cool to attach those words to the world’s most different-thinking people.” The agency came up with an ad that is still remarkable for its powerful image.

Reclaiming Its Position

The striking advertisement was filmed in black and white. It did not mention any company name until the end. Instead, it featured a narrator praising the “crazy” people, “rebels” and “misfits” who “changed the world.” Meanwhile, images of famous people including Muhammad Ali, Gandhi, Albert Einstein, Jim Henson, Martin Luther King and Amelia Earhart scrolled past. The ad ended with the words “Think Different” and a picture of the famous Apple logo.

Steve Jobs later said the campaign helped Apple reclaim its position. It was a clear statement of Apple’s corporate image. The campaign ran until 2002.

Since then, Apple has grown into a corporate behemoth not much different from its early competitors. However, the campaign helped cement the idea that Apple was still a rebel in the business world.

Think Lawsuits

Although it stopped using the slogan in 2002, Apple renewed its trademark on the phrase in 2016.

In 2019, Apple lost two trademark infringement cases it filed against Swiss watchmaker Swatch. The first case tried to stop Swatch from using the slogan “Tick different” to advertise its popular watches.

second lawsuit tried to stop Swatch from using the phrase, “One more thing” in its marketing. Apple argued unsuccessfully that the phrase, although not trademarked by Apple, was a phrase Steve Jobs was famous for using. The court sided with Swatch on both issues.

Other Trademark Battles

In 2012, Italian fashion designers Vincenzo and Giacomo Barbato told Business Insider Italia that they registered the trademark for “Steve Jobs” after discovering there was no trademark on the famous founder’s name. They named their company Steve Jobs. They also designed a leaf logo that looks almost like an apple.

Although Apple immediately filed a trademark infringement lawsuit, the European Union Intellectual Property Office sided with the designers. They are still selling Steve Jobs clothing.

Apple vs. Apple

Apple’s longest legal battle has been against the Apple Corps music company, which is best known as the label that produced the Beatles’ records. For almost 30 years, the two companies battled over the use of the apple symbol and name. Apple Corps filed the first lawsuit alleging trademark infringement, and the case was settled out of court in 1981.

A second lawsuit followed, however, when Apple Computer breached the terms of the settlement. It dis so when it entered the music business. This case was also settled out of court. The agreement prohibited Apple Computer from selling any physical music-related items.

In 2006, Apple Corps again charged Apple Computer with breaching the terms of the settlement with its iTunes an iPod. The court again ruled in favor of Apple Corps. Following this, both sides agreed that Apple Computer would own all trademarks related to ‘Apple’ and license them to Apple Corps for use.

Suing a Small Business

In 2019, Apple sued a small business named Prepear that uses a pear logo. Prepear is a food preparation company that does not compete with any Apple products.

The owners of Prepear say they plan to stand up to what they call Apple’s bullying of small businesses. A Prepear employee created a petition asking Apple to back off. The petition has received more than 70,000 signatures.

Like other big companies with a well-known logo and slogan, Apple has attacked smaller companies even when the trademark infringement claims seem to be a stretch. In that way, at least, the maverick computer company has become like its former competitors.

Future Thinking

Apple has become a global giant by creating an image as an upstart, free-thinking company. The “Think Different” campaign cemented that reputation in the public eye.

Xavier Morales, Esq.

About the Author:

Xavier Morales, Esq.

Mr. Morales founded this trademark law practice in January 2007 with the goal of providing intellectual property expertise to entrepreneurs and businesses around the country. Since then, he has filed more than 6,000 trademarks with the USPTO. You can learn more about Xavier here.

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