Today news has broken out that UK TV network ITV sent Apple a letter last year basically saying: ‘You’d best not name your HD TV sets iTV’. Even though it’s now been denied, everyone’s now gearing up to cover a huge legal battle. But I just don’t think it’ll happen. More to the point: if you do, you probably don’t understand the way Apple works…

The news claims that Apple is about to lawyer up to fight ITV over the use of the name for its HD TV sets. Except it’s probably not. While the company has ben relatively cavalier with product naming in the past – calling the iPad the iPad without really checking the legalities – I find it incredibly hard to believe that the company is about to launch into a battle that it can’t possibly win.

Let’s take a quick look at Apple’s previous naming lawsuits. iOS, the name of the iPhone’s operating system, was fought for on the grounds that the name was being used, but not in the public eye. iOS is also the name Cisco used for its Internet Operating System software, found inside corporate-style network equipment.

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The same applies for the iPhone – the term was so buried in Cisco’s corporate infrastructure that it would never have been known by consumers.

When Apple TV initially launched it did so under the name ‘iTV’. That changed to Apple TV following anger from the UK broadcaster ITV. The name was changed, Apple learnt its lesson, things ironed themselves out. But it wasn’t about lawyer fees or court time. It was about simplicity.

That’s the key point here: Apple’s most obvious quality is its eye for keeping things simple and uncomplicated. Find me another Apple product name that causes any confusion whatsoever, or mirrors that of an existing product at all, and I’ll be impressed.

ITV in the UK is a national institution. Since its inception in 1955, the channel has grown to have a product portfolio of both channels, websites and original content to rival any of the other British broadcasters. In short: it’s not going anywhere. Similarly, the UK is an enormous market for Apple. It was the only market in the world during Q4 2011 to buck the trend and show an increase in Apple Mac sales, for one.

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The problem in terms of the media is that there’s a perception that Apple will overlook this fact. American media tends to be heavily US-centric, so it probably doesn’t understand that some tiny little broadcasting shack from New HamLondon-shire bearing the same name as the Apple sets would be much of a problem. And that’s ridiculous.

While UK viewing figures are obviously far smaller than those in the US, it’s still an important piece of Apple’s pie – one that it can’t afford to annoy, confuse or ignore. Calling the next generation of Apple TV ‘iTV’ is basically the same as calling it iNBC in the states.

Thinking that the company is really going to release a range of TV sets on these shores with the same name as a company that makes up major part of the nation’s collective viewing is madness. The can of worms that doing so would unleash just wouldn’t be worth the hassle and would go against Apple’s streamlined, simple ethos. The confusion just wouldn’t be worth the risk for the sake of a name.

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“Did you see that thing on iTV last night?” “The channel or the Apple thing?” – Yeah, quite. More than anything, Apple will want its product to be a one of a kind. It named the iPod the iPod and the iPad the iPad because they’re memorable, instantly recognisable names with their own personas. ‘Apple Tablet’ wouldn’t have been quite the same.

As for the case of Apple TV as it stands? The name was forced in as a quick replacement following that initial legal action. The Apple TV set top box is and has always been called a ‘hobby’ for the company, but the TV sets will be the full on assault – the result of some three years’ tinkering time. It will need its own catchy, distinct name, but I’d bet my last penny that it won’t be iTV.

Of course, I have no idea what it’ll actually be named; iBox, iView or anything similar seems far more likely. Just not iTV.

 

  • http://twitter.com/marktitley Mark Titley

    or apple with all its money could just buy ITV and problem solved for both content and name :o

  • MCGareth

    British TV audiences are much bigger then American ratings. We have a single time zone and the fragmentation of audiences is slightly different. 

    • Anonymous

      If that ever was true, it’s not now! 110 million people in the US watched the Super Bowl the other week.

    • Anonymous

      If that ever was true, it’s not now! 110 million people in the US watched the Super Bowl the other week.

    • Anonymous

      If that ever was true, it’s not now! 110 million people in the US watched the Super Bowl the other week.

      • MCGareth

        Yeah yeah, the Grammys, Superbowl, Oscars… those ’Event TV’
        programmes are always going to eclipse the daily ratings and provide the
        headline – America
        is a big country, we get it. But the statement “UK viewing figures
        are obviously far smaller than those in the US” it’s simply not true – and
        just a little bit of research beyond the headline might have made the writer
        think twice about it. British TV is a massive world export market and consequently
        we have a lot of locally produced programming compared to the size of the
        country – it’s really popular with the UK audiences and its rates
        exceptionally well at home. 

  • Martyn Abbott

    “Calling the next generation of Apple TV ‘iTV’ is basically the same as calling it iNBC in the states.”

    Surely it would be the same as calling it NBC and not iNBC??

  • Anonymous

    “Apple TV” is already an established product name. If (and it’s still an “if”) Apple decided to sell an HDTV product, they are likely to use the current ”Apple TV” name… not change it to something else.

  • Richardtaylorwriter

    The whole ‘I’ prefix is getting a little old anyway. Time for a change. The name ‘Apple’ would be so much more classier anyway.

    As for British TV audiences being larger than those in America, do you mean ‘live’ audiences? There are three hundred million people here and time zones are merely clock assignations (as in ‘The Good Wife, 9 PM, 8 Central.’)

    • Anonymous

      Yeah, it would be a lot classier, you’re right. I don’t think he said they were larger though! Quite the opposite in fact: “While UK viewing figures are obviously far smaller than those in the US”.

    • Anonymous

      Yeah, it would be a lot classier, you’re right. I don’t think he said they were larger though! Quite the opposite in fact: “While UK viewing figures are obviously far smaller than those in the US”.

    • Anonymous

      Yeah, it would be a lot classier, you’re right. I don’t think he said they were larger though! Quite the opposite in fact: “While UK viewing figures are obviously far smaller than those in the US”.

  • Guest

    Buy it and close it.

    • Union Jack

      Not for sale you idiot! You USA citizens think you can buy everything. Wake up!

      • Anonymous

        To be fair, I’d pe perfectly happy for Apple to buy out ITV just to use its name – not that it would. I bloody despise ITV.

      • Anonymous

        To be fair, I’d pe perfectly happy for Apple to buy out ITV just to use its name – not that it would. I bloody despise ITV.

      • Anonymous

        To be fair, I’d pe perfectly happy for Apple to buy out ITV just to use its name – not that it would. I bloody despise ITV.

  • Guest

    Buy it and close it.

  • Me

    iSee

  • Me

    iSee

  • BigNellie

    Actually, it’s not like calling it iNBC in the States: it’s more like calling it nBC and expecting people to know the difference.  I imagine the marketing people are all saying anyway that there’s nothing wrong with ‘Apple TV’ as a brand.  The technology is, after all supposed to redefine television, and ‘An Apple TV’ is more distinctive an object than ‘An iTV’  

    In the name ‘iPod’ it’s not the ‘i’ that makes the term special, it’s the ‘pod’ part too.  Previously the word was only used for peas, tiny hotel rooms, and escape capsules fitted to doomed rebel space freighters.  ’iTV’ was never distinctive enough by comparison. 

    And middle-class upmarket Apple would not want to be confused with a UK TV network aimed at a blue-collar audience, even if it did make Downton Abbey. 

    • MCGareth

      is CBS a blue collar audience? 

  • BigNellie

    Actually, it’s not like calling it iNBC in the States: it’s more like calling it nBC and expecting people to know the difference.  I imagine the marketing people are all saying anyway that there’s nothing wrong with ‘Apple TV’ as a brand.  The technology is, after all supposed to redefine television, and ‘An Apple TV’ is more distinctive an object than ‘An iTV’  

    In the name ‘iPod’ it’s not the ‘i’ that makes the term special, it’s the ‘pod’ part too.  Previously the word was only used for peas, tiny hotel rooms, and escape capsules fitted to doomed rebel space freighters.  ’iTV’ was never distinctive enough by comparison. 

    And middle-class upmarket Apple would not want to be confused with a UK TV network aimed at a blue-collar audience, even if it did make Downton Abbey. 

  • Bullwinkle

    This is a badly written, I’ll thought out peice without the benefit of being backed up by research or common logic.

    • Anonymous

      How so? Also, it’s “ill” without the apostrophe.

  • Hm

    They could always make an expensive deal with ITV UK to the rights to the name ‘iTV, specifically with a lowecase i’, but like the author here, I don’t think they’ll do that. I also don’t think it’ll be ‘Apple TV’ though, as that would suggest they were discontinuing the existing Apple TV product, which seems unlikely, plus it would lack the impact required for a new product launch. 

    Whatever the product is, Apple will be billing it as ‘Beyond TV’ – something that needs a new name entirely to disrupt and create a whole new category again, as they like to do. What that is remains to be seen.

    • Darran.

      Except `ITV’ has used a lowercase itv in its logo for at least 15 years.

  • Anonymous

    Apple TV was not originally introduced as iTV — it was Apple TV from the start. There was no “correction” following a protest from the U.K. broadcaster. There were rumors of Apple’s TV product before it was released, and some statements made indicating that the U.K. ITV would not allow Apple to use its trademark. But Apple’s product was never officially called “iTV,” even for a day.

  • Anonymous

    Apple TV was not originally introduced as iTV — it was Apple TV from the start. There was no “correction” following a protest from the U.K. broadcaster. There were rumors of Apple’s TV product before it was released, and some statements made indicating that the U.K. ITV would not allow Apple to use its trademark. But Apple’s product was never officially called “iTV,” even for a day.

  • Anonymous

    Apple TV was not originally introduced as iTV — it was Apple TV from the start. There was no “correction” following a protest from the U.K. broadcaster. There were rumors of Apple’s TV product before it was released, and some statements made indicating that the U.K. ITV would not allow Apple to use its trademark. But Apple’s product was never officially called “iTV,” even for a day.

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