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Apple Gets Gruff About Giveaway Guidelines

Apple Gets Gruff About Giveaway Guidelines

Apple famously exercises iron-fisted control over its branding, but you might be surprised to learn that its long arm extends to what you may or may not do with its products after you've purchased them. Want to lure customers through an iPod giveaway promotion? Boost church raffle sales by offering a spanking new iPad as first prize? If so, Apple has some guidelines for you.

Apple is stepping up enforcement of guidelines that it issued in January restricting giveaways or third-party promotions of the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch.

Chief among these: iPad, iPhone and iPhone gift cards may not be used in any such promotions or sweepstakes; iPod touch cards may be used, but only if 250 have been purchased.

Apple also frowns on using the word "free" in conjunction with its brand, unless it is obvious that the third party is gifting the device, not Apple. Some examples: "Sign up for a checking account and we'll give you an iPod shuffle," or "Win an iPod nano when you refer 10 friends to [INSERT COMPANY NAME]."

Finally, Apple laid out detailed instructions about how its marketing materials related to the promotion of Apple products are to be used. In short, only the most current versions of a product line can be displayed, Apple's official photography cannot be altered, and the Myriad Set font apparently is completely verboten.

The Church Raffle Too?

It is unclear what prompted Apple to begin enforcement of these guidelines, which was first reported in Fortune magazine. Apple did not respond to MacNewsWorld's request to comment for this story.

Certainly, the iPad, et al, are very popular and often used as prizes in both commercial promotions and nonprofit endeavors such as church raffles. Although Apple is not likely gunning for the local minister, it would probably be best not to wave a flagrant violation in its face.

"I think if they were to speak honestly with you, they would tell you they weren't interested in nonprofits that use these devices to raise money," James Hirsen, a media ethics professor and intellectual property attorney at Touro University Worldwide, told MacNewsWorld.

The company is more likely concerned about their use by unsavory or questionable enterprises -- say, in a sales pitch to get people to attend an seminar advertising a shady investment.

First Use Doctrine

Still, anyone who wanted to push the limits of Apple's patience by violating these guidelines -- they are after all, only called "guidelines" -- could conceivably win in court, suggested Christopher M. Collins, a partner with Vanderpool, Frostick & Nishanian.

"Under the first use doctrine in IP law, you can do whatever you want with a product, including giving it away," he told MacNewsWorld. "The only thing you have to avoid is implying or suggesting that Apple is supporting or sponsoring the event or cause."

Font Freak

For some, the guidelines may seem a bit obsessive, but Hirsen doesn't blame Apple.

"More than one source has said that Apple has the most valuable brand in the world," he reflected. "But even if that were not the case, it is certainly one of the most valuable brands. If its products are being used regularly in questionable schemes or promotions, it has a right to stop that."

As for the detailed instructions about how promotional materials should look, is anybody really surprised, wonders Hirsen, given that this is Apple?

"Steve Jobs studied calligraphy -- he is known to be a font freak," he remarked. "And the entire corporate culture of Apple is fixated on style and design."


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