Swatch’s Reasoning for Its Apple-Sounding Trademarks Is Patently Absurd

Last week, PatentlyApple reported that Swatch Group had trademarked two phrases for use with watches: “tick different” and “one more thing.” Both, of course, call to mind newly minted watchmaker Apple.

The first conjures Apple’s late-‘90s slogan “think different”; the second was Steve Jobs’ showy way of unveiling a new product or feature during his oft-lauded keynotes. The Next Web dubbed the twin registrations an “epic troll move.” 

For its part, Swatch denies the two filings have anything to do with Apple. As far as the first, CEO Nicolas Hayek told the Swiss press that his company has used the slogan “always different, always new” since the ’80s. Regarding “one more thing,” its spokesperson writes:

… the name was inspired by Inspector Columbo’s citation “Just one more thing.” Obviously, our design team plans to launch a collection inspired by the “Film Noir.”

Granted, Steve Jobs likely ripped off the “one more thing” gimmick from Columbo; both were a fake-offhand way of introducing important information. (In Columbo’s case, it introduced the final bit of information that nailed the murderer.) 

Still, you don’t have to be a rumpled master detective to tick off the problems here:

First, as anyone who’s ever seen the series—which Vox just called “the best show ever made”—can tell you, it’s Lieutenant Columbo. 

Second, as Daily Show writer Elliott Kalan can testify:

Third, Columbo’s stock phrase was “just one more thing”: Swatch registered the Jobs-ian “one more thing.”

Fourth, Swatch does not appear to be licensing Columbo’s name or image for the watch, nor has it applied for a trademark for a film noir watch.

Finally, this is not the first time Swatch has brushed up against Apple on IP issues. Last year, it challenged registrations for iWatch, claiming that name’s too close to its registered iSwatch. Some believe the prospect of a long, drawn-out legal battle spurred the tech giant to name its new baby the Apple Watch—which, at least one marketing professor feels, has hurt sales.

Swatch may have won that round, but let’s hope it has better plans to counter the smartwatch trend than just trolling with trademarks. Otherwise, to quote another oft-used (if non-patented) phrase: Time may still be on Apple’s side.

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JCK News Director