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Apple loses US trademark fight against Myspace

Social network Myspace is back, and it's honing in on Apple's territory.

As noted by GigaOm, trademark judges last week denied the Cupertino-based company's attempt to protect its music app image, saying that users might confuse it with the mark already owned by Myspace.

In an 18 September decision, US regulatory body the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB) upheld a previous decision denying Apple its requested trademark (see image, top). The rival orange-and-white square music-note icon was issued in 2008 to music service iLike, which was later acquired by Myspace.

Apple argued that the registered mark is "weak," pointing to eight other organisations that have obtained trademarks for music notes without any consumer confusion.

The TTAB dismissed the argument, saying that the Apple and Myspace marks are more similar to each other than the third-party registrations Californian firm had submitted to the court.

"Moreover, consumers may not recognise the differences because they do not typically set out to find them," the decision said.

Similarities between the two services – Apple's music app and iLike's downloading and sharing feature – is also a point of contention for the TTAB. The Cupertino-based tech titan is looking to register its icon for computer software that stores and plays music via handheld devices, while the registered mark is used to distinguish iLike's non-downloadable software that adds music and video profiles on the Internet and allows the playing and sharing of MP3s and playlists online.

"Applicant's software and the registrant's services perform similar functions: controlling digital music," TTAB said.

In the end, the companies' look-alike factors worked against Apple, which can still appeal the TTAB's decision to a US federal court. The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Myspace, meanwhile, re-emerged this week with a sneak peek at its new Justin Timberlake-backed website. In 2011, Specific Media handed News Corp. $35 million (about £21.5m) for Myspace, which is now under the management of CEO Tim Vanderhook, his COO brother Chris Vanderhook, and pop star Timberlake.