The similarities are obvious. Both color schemes are similar and both have two bubbles overlaid, but in a reverse order. In the TechCrunch piece, HipChat’s CEO, Pete Hurley, is quoted as saying, “I doubt we’re on Apple’s radar, but it sucks that we’ll probably have to change our icon because of this.”
With Apple’s Trademark issues over the term “iPad,” I found it interesting that TechCrunch did not ask Mr. Hurley whether HipChat had sought to Trademark the HipChat icon. As it turns out, HipChat did file a trademark application for the character mark “HipChat,” which protects the actual name of the company. The statement of use for this mark is directed to “[c]omputer software platforms for instant messaging.” So clearly the use would fall in line with Apple’s use of the Messages application.
Despite having clearly thought about Trademarks by filing the character mark, HipChat does not appear to have filed an application to protect the design of their logo. This decision is fairly common for companies with limited resources because design marks typically do not afford as much protection as character marks. For this reason, many startups are advised to to save some money by initially foregoing design mark applications. However as the company grows, it is important to reassess this decision by going back to consider any other filings that may help to protect the company’s IP. It would be interesting to know whether HipChat considered filing a mark on their logo at any point, and whether they may still be planning to do so.
Everyone by now knows that Apple is one of the largest companies in the world and has vast expertise in dealing with a wide range of IP issues. This is also not the first time Apple found inspiration from other apps. While by no means a slam dunk, having a valid U.S. design mark for its logo would help put HipChat on a more even playing field with Apple and might help the company salvage its distinctive logo.