Animoji app developer suing Apple for trademark infringement

Apple sued over 'Animoji' trademark, allegedly tried to buy IP rights prior to iPhone X debut

The Tokyo-based company, Emonster, filed the suit on Wednesday in U.S. federal court, saying, "Apple made the conscious decision to try to pilfer the name for itself".

Animoji is still available on the App Store for US$0.99.

Apple's iPhone X is still a week away from going up for pre-order, and yet the tech-giant has already been hit with a lawsuit challenging its use of 'Animoji' - the trademark name behind one of its high-end handset's intriguing new emoji animation feature.

The iPhone X's Animoji feature, meanwhile, lets people transform their face into customized moving emoji, taking advantage of Apple's face recognition technology. Animoji, if you recall, is the name Apple gave to the iPhone X's animated emoji feature wherein the device's TrueDepth camera system tracks a user's facial expressions and applies them to an emoji in real-time. A copy of USPTO's Registered Trademark Certificate is presented below for verification purposes. However, developer Enrique Bonansea and his company emonster has had a 99-cent Animoji app on the Apple Store since July 2014. Instead of using the creativity on which Apple developed its worldwide reputation, Apple simply plucked the name from a developer on its own App Store. "Apple could have changed its desired name prior to its announcement when it realized Plaintiffs already used ANIMOJI for their own product". The suit does not include evidence that ties Apple to the supposed fronts, but the iPhone maker has been known to conduct patent, trademark and other publicly accessible regulatory operations under the guise of shell corporations to avoid unintentional leaks. "Yet Apple made the conscious decision to try to pilfer the name for itself - regardless of the consequences".

"Before Apple announced its Animoji feature", the suit notes, "it had recognized Plaintiffs' senior rights to ANIMOJI". According to Apple's filing, Bonasea's US -based emonster Inc didn't exist when the original trademark was filed.

The lawsuit, however, insists that Washington-based emonster inc and Tokyo-based emonster k.k. acted as a single commercial enterprise when they filed the trademark. emonster inc was later dissolved and emonster k.k. filed for a technical correction. Bonansea and emonster k.k. have since reapplied for the trademark, citing use since the app was created back in 2014.

The plaintiffs claim that not only did Apple know about the Animoji app before using its name, but the company actually attempted to purchase the rights to it from emonster.

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