Publisher says Apple's use of iBooks is not novel

Apple pple has been slapped with a lawsuit over its new iBooks brand of electronic books, from a little New York publisher that has been producing a series called ibooks for more than a decade.

The 1,000-title series, which includes science fiction, comic books and educational books, has been overshadowed by the Apple juggernaut, according to the publisher JT Colby & Co, and its ibooks brand has been "rendered virtually worthless".

The trademark-infringement lawsuit was filed in a New York court this week. It demands that JT Colby receives a cut of revenue from every iBook sold by Apple, plus damages. Apple's lawyers have yet to respond and a spokesman refused to comment yesterday.

Apple developed the iBooks format and an associated iBookstore in the build-up to the launch of the iPad, its tablet computer, last year. According to Apple last week, users have downloaded 130 million iBooks since launch.

"This enormous sales volume and the accompanying advertising expenditures is likely to – and in fact already has – overwhelmed the reputation and goodwill of [the] plaintiff's 'ibooks' and 'ipicturebooks' marks," JT Colby said in its lawsuit. "As a result, Apple's massive sales, advertising and delivery of 'iBooks' has for ever linked 'iBooks' with Apple in the minds of consumers."

JT Colby acquired the ibooks series in 2006, when it had already published more than 1,000 titles. They ranged from military histories to new versions of classic stories, such as novels featuring X-Men characters. The company has also been publishing ibooks in electronic form for several years, it said.

Although Apple has a trademark on the name iBook for computers, the lawsuit contends that it has no right to use the trademark for books.

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