Apple Challenges Startup's Use Of Term 'Pod' - InformationWeek

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Apple Challenges Startup's Use Of Term 'Pod'

Apple is claiming to own the term "pod" on mobile devices and software. It's telling a startup to stop using the term in connection with podcasts on media players.

Apple Computer has sent a legal notice claiming to own the term pod on mobile devices and software, and has demanded that a startup stop using the word in marketing its application for updating podcasts on digital media players.

Podcast Ready, based in Houston, offers at no charge software called MyPodder that a person can use to manage and update podcasts on a portable player. The current version of the software works on devices running Microsoft's Windows Media Player software, but on Thursday the company plans to launch a version of its product for the iPod. The launch is scheduled for the Podcast and Portable Media Expo in Ontario, Calif.

Podcast Ready's device partners often ship the software preloaded on digital players, and stamp the "Podcast Ready" brand on the packaging. Apple's objections relate to the startup's use of the term pod in relation to mobile devices and software, Russell Holliman, chief executive and founder of Podcast Ready, said Monday.

"They don't object to Podcast Ready, only to its use in the context of a portable device," Holliman said. "But that's kind of what podcasts are all about."

Apple did not have an immediate comment, but in its letter, the Cupertino, Calif., computer maker said it owns the iPod trademark, and has an application at the U.S. Trademark Office to make pod a trademark. The company claims that use of the word in conjunction with mobile devices would confuse consumers.

"Apple is concerned that certain uses of 'Podcast Ready' and 'MyPodder' by your clients is likely to confuse consumers into mistakenly believing Apple is associated with your clients' products and services," the letter, supplied to TechWeb by Podcast Ready, said. The letter was sent Sept. 21 to the startup's attorney.

Apple claimed that the term pod is used extensively among consumer as an abbreviation for the iPod.

"I never in my life ever met anyone who calls it (the iPod) a Pod," Holliman said.

Podcast Ready is marketing MyPodder as an easy way to keep a person's favorite podcasts up to date. Each time a device is connected to a computer through a USB port, the software automatically performs the update. Adding or removing podcasts for downloading is done through the company's Web site.

Podcast Ready had been notified by Apple two or three weeks ago that it had objections with the company using the term MyPodder, but did not indicate Podcast Ready was a problem, or that it would claim to own the pod trademark.

"I had to read the letter three times, because I couldn't believe I was reading it properly," Holliman said.

The chief executive didn't know whether Apple's challenge would affect his ability to raise money from new investors. Holliman, however, planned to release the iPod version of his company's software, as well as other new products, as scheduled on Thursday.

After that, the company will decide how to respond. There is, however, concern over a pending legal battle with a far wealthier opponent, Holliman said. The company has until Oct. 5 to respond.

"We're going to take every bit of time that we have to think about this," Holliman said.

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