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Product Specific Accessories

Do companies such as Belkin, which produces accessories such as protector sleeves for Apple iPods, need permission from Apple, since the sleeves ONLY fit iPods? And does such a company need permission to market the product as an iPod accessory, as long as it acknowledges that it's not an official Apple product?
Nina Kaufman answered June 16, 2008
URL: http://www.entrepreneur.com/answer/221456
Generally, any time you develop a product that is made to "work with" another--especially a wildly popular one--you need to work out some form of license arrangement.

In the license arrangement, you pay for the privilege of having your product associated with the other's (in your example, the iPod). The reason is that you are banking on your product selling well precisely because you’re riding on the coattails of the other product's success. In other words, it's the association with the other product--such as the iPod--that’s contributing to the cache of your own product. Otherwise, why would anyone care about your product?

Consumers want the Belkin carrying case because, first and foremost, it carries their iPod. Also be aware that large companies such as Apple also have large legal teams and large budgets for ferreting out companies that use their trademarks without proper compensation. It’s not enough to have a "disclaimer" that it’s not an official Apple product.

Nina L. Kaufman, Esq. is an award-winning New York City attorney, edutainer and author. Under her Ask The Business Lawyer brand, she reaches thousands of entrepreneurs and small business owners with her legal services, professional speaking, information products, and LexAppeal weekly ezine. She also writes the Making It Legal blog.