While Apple celebrates its newly-achieved $2 trillion valuation, smaller firms are being crushed under its increasingly domineering authority.
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Just yesterday morning, I was ruminating on the fact that Apple was almost literally a stone's throw away from a $2 trillion valuation, which would make it the first publicly traded US company to reach this milestone. Later that same day, it managed to break the $2 trillion barrier, entering the annals of history once more. It was only this past June that it had managed to become the first US company to reach $1.5 trillion in value; Apple is literally on a tear right now, pandemic notwithstanding.
The California-headquartered tech giant is old and historied, a veteran of the tech sector whom we have to thank for many innovations in the fields of personal computers, music players, smartphones, and more. Like its late co-founder Steve Jobs, Apple fought tooth and nail to brings its vision for the tech industry to life, often facing rivals big and small in its path. The greatest of these was initially IBM, whose shadow Apple had lingered in for years.
The highlight of this rivalry had always been Apple's iconic ad titled '1984,' named after the famous dystopian novel by English author George Orwell. In the ad, IBM is painted as a domineering totalitarian authority in the same vein as the Big Brother figure from the novel.
In the ad and as for Apple's overall attitude during those years, it painted itself as the new kid on the block fighting the good fight against big-old IBM. In the public's eye, Apple was painted as the righteous underdog, fighting for a right to survive and innovate.
"For many years, Apple really was the underdog," Jason Aten writes for Inc.com. "It's still a far smaller computer manufacturer by market share, and macOS runs on less than 10 percent of personal computers, compared to Windows, which runs on more than 87 percent. But Apple is a lot more than Macs, with the iPhone representing its largest business by far. The iPhone is also what made Apple an almost $2 trillion company."
I'll spare judgment on that discourse, and will instead offer a look to the present. While Apple and IBM have let bygones be bygones numerous times over the years since then, we've gradually seen a role reversal: Apple has grown enough to become the authoritarian figure spewing propaganda on that big screen, one leagues greater than IBM ever was: a $2 trillion giant, and one of the most powerful companies in the world.
Enter Big Brother Apple
Rising game developer and publisher Epic Games, the studio behind mega-hit battle royale game Fortnite, is currently butting heads with Apple (and Google) after being blocked from their App Store (and Google Play).
Epic Games were not content paying the supposedly high fees (30%) Apple charges per in-app sale and introduced a direct payment system where Apple wouldn't be able to take a cut. As a result, Apple retaliated by kicking them off the platform.
Epic Games fought back with a lawsuit last week and parodied Apple's controversial '1984' ad with a scathing version of their own titled "Nineteen Eighty-Fortnite."
"Apple has become what it once railed against: the behemoth seeking to control markets, block competition and stifle innovation," Epic Games' lawsuit noted. "Apple is bigger, more powerful, more entrenched and more pernicious than the monopolists of yesteryear. At a market cap of nearly $2 trillion, Apple's size and reach far exceeds that of any technology monopolist in history."
Epic Games is now utilizing its full PR force to rally its massive player base to support it in creating a change to Apple's policies.
Make no mistake, however: this whole debacle seems like a calculated PR stunt on Epic's part, and some sources allege it was pre-planned. Epic Games has been a growing force in the gaming industry as of late, and it is now using its significant pull with consumers to challenge the beast at the top of the food chain to benefit both itself, and perhaps the greater mobile app ecosystem.
This isn't the first time a major brand has challenged Apple's power. In 2019, music streaming service Spotify filed a complaint against Apple for similar reasons, also decrying the high fees Apple takes from Spotify subscriptions.
Additionally, Apple is already facing scrutiny from anti-trust regulators for multiple reasons, some of which relate to their App Store policies on competition and fees.
Going after the little guy
While Epic Games is significantly smaller than Apple with a recent valuation of $17.3 billion, it's still considered a major tech firm with a host of lawyers and millions of dollars at its disposal to help it wage this battle against the iPhone maker.
The same can't be said for Prepear, a tiny company that now finds itself in the cross hairs of Apple's law team.
Prepear is a meal prep company founded by a blogger couple 5 years ago that has a mere five staff members in its employ. Now, Apple is taking legal action against the startup for filing a trademark for a logo that they claim appears similar to theirs.
According to its filing with the US patent and trademark office, the tech giant says that the Prepear logo "consists of a minimalistic fruit design with a right-angled leaf, which readily calls to mind Apple's famous Apple Logo and creates a similar commercial impression. The Apple Marks are so famous and instantly recognizable that the similarities in Applicant's Mark (i.e. Prepear's logo) will overshadow any differences and cause the ordinary consumer to believe the Applicant (Prepear) is related to, affiliated with or endorsed by Apple."
Basically, Apple's lawyers claim that people will mistake Prepear's logo for Apple's or incorrectly associate it with Apple's products and services, and are asking regulators to reject the trademark application which Prepear filed in 2017.
"Apple would be damaged by the registration of Applicant's Mark in connection with Applicant's Services because Applicant's Mark so closely resemble the Apple Marks that it is likely to cause confusion, mistake, or deception in the minds of consumers..."
Would it, though? Is anyone going to mistake the two logos for the other? I beg to differ.
"This is a big blow to us at Prepear," Natalie Monson, co-founder of Prepear, wrote in an Instagram post. "To fight this it will cost tens of thousands of dollars. The CRAZY thing is that Apple has done this to dozens of other other small business fruit logo companies, and many have chosen to abandon their logo, or close doors. While the rest of the world is going out of their way to help small businesses during this pandemic, Apple has chosen to go after our small business."
She continued: "I feel a moral obligation to take a stand against Apple's aggressive legal action against small businesses and fight for the right to keep our logo. We are defending ourselves against Apple not only to keep our logo, but to send a message to big tech companies that bullying small businesses has consequences."
One has to wonder why Apple is wasting hours and resources on such a matter. Sure, everyone needs to protect their trademarks, but does this obviously-different logo warrant such drastic action? Is this how you build and maintain a 2 trillion dollar company - the same company that has built its legacy on fighting the little man's battles and championing free thinking and innovation?
Today, at $2 trillion, Apple pays homage to an eternally true adage:
"Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely."