If the Animoji name seemed familiar to you when Tim Cook announced it, there’s a good reason for that. There was already an Animoji app in the App Store.
According to a report from The Recorder, Susman Godfrey LLP has filed a lawsuit against Apple on the behalf of Enrique Bonansea. Bonansea, a U.S. citizen living in Japan, is the developer of an app called “Animoji – Free Animated Texting.” While the app has only been downloaded 18,000 times, he did file a trademark on the term ‘animoji’ in 2015 with the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
Bonansea says that in summer 2017 he was contacted by multiple companies such as The Emoji Law Group LLC about purchasing his animoji trademark, but opted not to sell. While he has no proof of any connection between these companies and Apple, it is his belief it was the iPhone maker behind the attempted purchase.
On Sept. 11 Apple filed a petition with the USPTO to cancel Bonansea’s animoji trademark on the grounds it had been misfiled. The original filing was done under a Washington corporation named “emonster, Inc” that is now defunct. Apple’s petition claims that emonster, Inc was not in operation at the time of the filing, but Bonansea says that was a mistake and it should have been filed under his Japanese company, Emonster k.k.
Apple’s petition is currently under review by the USPTO.
According to the lawsuit, Bonansea has planned to release an update to Animoji by the end of 2017, but instead rushed it out “so that Apple did not further associate the Animoji mark in the public’s minds with Apple.” He is seeking an injunction to prohibit Apple from using the Animoji name along with damages and court costs.
As court cases go, this is a tough one. On the one hand, you have someone who was clearly using the name, but appears to have not correctly filed his trademark. If it is ruled it was misfiled the lawsuit will more than likely be dismissed and nothing will ever come of this. If it is decided his mark stands, then Apple will have to deal with Bonansea, and more than likely this would be settled out of court with a non-disclosure agreement in tow.
With the iPhone X set to launch on Nov. 3, something will have to happen quick, but what the solution happens to be is anyone’s guess at this point.