Sony Ericsson sues Clearwire over logo

Sony Ericsson Sues Clearwire Out Of Fear That You'll Mix Up Their Logos.jpeg Metallic green swirls are in! Cellphone maker Sony Ericsson is suing Clearwire over the similarities between the two companies' logos. The trademark infringement comes down to the 'swirl' motif, color scheme and both companies' presence in the same market. Complaint [PDF via Engadget]


  1. Reasonably, Sony doesn’t have a case. Separate topologies, if one assumes the colours represent surfaces.

    1. I dunno, seems like Sony’s case is solid considering both companies are in the same business category. There are still plenty of people out there who think that their phone company is Nokia.

  2. I’m pretty confident that the phrase “separate topologies” never appears in the legal criteria for trademark infringement. It’s certainly not going to keep those two logos from being mistaken for each other.

  3. Also keep in mind that these logos will be about a quarter of an inch in diameter when they’re stamped on the products themselves. You’ll need to put on your reading glasses to tell the Sony from the Fony.

  4. Do we need to come up with alternate logos for companies when their products and services are presented in the same places of business as similar logos from other companies, like the home and away uniforms for football teams?

  5. You know what else looks swirly? The bowl of a toilet being flushed. Bring on the lawsuit from Thomas Crapper!

    /yes I know the Thomas Crapper thing is apocryphal.

  6. I would roll my eyes at this, but my lawyers have informed me that this might create some sort of swirl and leave me open to litigation.

    1. Probably because that’s something no one has heard of, and only available for platforms that are irrelevant these days? ;) (I am very much aware that Nokia is the number one smartphone manufacturer worldwide, thank you!)

      Also, Clearwire provides wireless phone hardware to its customers, presumably with their logo on it (though their site shows different graphics). So, very possibly room for confusion.

      Regarding the merits of the Sony Ericsson logo itself, yes it is ugly on screen but on their phones it’s a 3D dome with clear green plastic and a metallic plastic piece on top. Looks pretty cool actually – I think Sony doesn’t get due credit for hardware design (style-wise, anyway); the Sony Ericsson phone I had (I have a Nexus One now, and there’s no turning back) was really quite cool, and not just because of the 3D logo :)

  7. I might have to side with Sony here, insofar as consumer confusion is one of the standards for trademark infringement and neither logo tells me a damn thing about the company it represents. I’m certainly confused.

  8. Yeah yeah yeah every one wants litigation and trademark infringement to continue to reify the notion of information. It’s sooo 19th century landlord toadying.

  9. No question they are similarily confusing in the telco space and no question Sony will win that challenge.

  10. Color should not be allowed as the basis for a trademark. Neither should words of a single syllable (“face”, “book”) be allowed. These concepts are so broad and map to such wide swathes of our consciousness, our day-to-day thoughts, our accumulated life experience, and maybe even primitive neurological structures evolved to process them that no single company should be allowed to own them. That’s exactly why companies want them — but it’s too much. These companies are not that special, and they shouldn’t be allowed to just walk up and say “this is ours” just because they feel like it.

    IP overreach; corporate welfare; in my opinion.

    I’m not at all confused by those two logos. I find one to be pretty “clear” (guess which one) and comprehensible, and the other is a mess.

  11. That’s what happens when you use clip art you bought for $15 off the shelf at Fry’s in 1993 as your logo.

  12. I don’t know if Sony will win, but I can understand them pursuing it. The standard for trademark infringement is “confusingly similar.” At the size that those badges are typically used they might be similar enough to confuse someone since they are both effectively green blacked blobby things with some swirly thing in front.

    1. I think both companies will include their corporate name where space permits. The logos are unrelated to product naming, so the name is needed to reinforce branding. The problem is that both companies sell similar devices (in direct competition), the logos will be quite small, and a successful logo is usable with or without product name.

      If logos are too close in design, the company that has successfully used a logo is basically paying for the branding of a competitor. This is true even if people know the products are different, because the look-alike logo makes it seem like the brand has been around longer than it has or been more widely available.

  13. Thank goodness Sony is spending their money wisely and not on something stupid, like, I dunno, research and development or something. *cough*

  14. Having searched Clearwire’s logo history out through google images, they may have a (weak) leg to stand on. Flashback to 2008. Here’s a post from Business Insider that shows a logo predating standard issue. Check out the swirl. It’s flipped, and it could have been a derivative of a “cw” where the original center swirl design had a middle peak. The good news for Clearwire is that there is some publicly-recorded history of them testing a circle-swirl as a logo well in advance of 2011.

    Early logos from Clearwire started as “clearwire wireless broadband.” The initial logo was all text and name-based. It just phased out the stem of the lower-case “i” in “wire” leaving only the dot (“tittle”). Then as the brand became better known, the excess verbage “wireless broadband” was removed, leaving only “clearwire.” Here’s a link:

    to an intermediate logo showing that the intent of the circle-swirl is to mimic the tittle. The suggested message for those following the brand is “get directly to the point, without the wire.” Simplification is common practice in design, and would be easy to show, especially since the company is renaming as “Clear.”

    Coloration is still too similar between the logos, but SE has laid claim to several colors, making it difficult for competitors to avoid duplication. It should be interesting to see where this goes.

  15. I rarely find myself pulling for Sony, but when it comes to the gang of scalpers at ‘Clear’wire: Go Sony!

  16. Tangential observation… it seems to me a logo that is so reliant on looking 3-dimensional is weaker than one that does not. First, it’d be easier to reproduce the Clearwire logo in fewer tones (e.g. for a panel truck or letterhead) and it’d still be recognizable. Second, the Sony logo looks like a physical thing so my mind tries to parse it as such, realizes it’s just a logo, and then I’m frustrated for wasting my time trying to decipher it. Clearwire is clearly just a symbol, not a sweetpea in an emo spacesuit.

  17. Just want to add that the Sony Ericsson logotype was made as early as in 2001. It was one of the first major international trademarks with only a computer rendered 3D logotype with no simple-to-print 2D alternative. In Sweden there had been a wave of ugly 3D computer rendered logotypes (with real world 3D counterparts), with an abundance of transparency and other bling-bling, during the 80’s to 90’s (used in local Swedish products, those that still exist use more sober logotypes today), I suppose the people in power at Ericsson thought it was cool. The joint venture between Sony and Ericsson was a rush job, it was formalised in only a couple of weeks, so I guess the graphics designers had even less time to come up with something. The first thing I thought when I saw the logotype was that it wouldn’t last, I was obviously wrong.

  18. Pfff, forget about SE vs Clearwire; what about Ocado vs Clearwire?

    (Different industries, but the logos are VERY similar)

  19. Ok let look at this. Logo commonality.
    both are round both have green both have white and both appear to be the same size. OMG Sesame street can sue too.

    These are two completely different logo’s.

    sony really needs to lay off and go back to making a better MMO and Sony I want my hologram TV stop sueing people and make it.

  20. I bet they were going for the feel of the AT&T logo and ended up using the green to set themselves apart from AT&T blue/orange.

  21. They’re completely different. Sony Ericsson’s is an abstract S, Clearwire’s is an abstract C.

    Sounds like another case of lawyers looking for a way to make fast cash

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