Monday, September 27, 2010

Two Birds on an Apple...

Anybody who ever spent more than ten minutes reading my blogs will have already known that for too many years I have been an Apple fan and a customer, whereby, the last 10 years at least, I've been more than a fan... almost an obsessively outspoken Apple defender about all their products... most of which I own! In other words, you'd have to find a very sound anti-Apple case to convince me against their merits...

However, I am still sane and just, I think. Meaning, if fairness proves otherwise, I'll choose fairness. So, I recently had my own share of anti-Apple feelings. After all these honeymoon years. Actually, for the first time ever. Listen to this:

A good personal friend of mine, whom I also converted into Apple for phones, routers, iPods, iPads and (in the meantime) MacBooks, ordered on the net a few protective cases for the iPhones of her siblings. The order was placed via eBay in the Netherlands. Apparently, the selling company is shipping its goods from Hong Kong but trades via eBay... The cases cost only a few euros each, my friend told me. There's nothing in this internet transaction that would suggest there is a problem with the supplier. On the contrary, the perception in Europe is, since Ebay sits on top of it, all would definitely be legit. I also heard that quite a few buyers purchased products from the same supplier and received them in Belgium without any hassle. So, how on earth can you know that something's wrong with them?

Days later, instead of receiving the cases, my dear lady comrade received a fancy letter by a lawyer Firm -- Bird & Bird... I'm not kidding, their email domain is (sic) -- threatening her with legal action unless she did something about this particular internet order. Distantiate herself from it, that is to say...

They said the Hong Kong company infringes Trademarks (n° 2593663 and 6387203 - anybody got a clue what these are?) with its products and designs, the trademarks belonging to Apple. That's fair enough... but, how could any of us possibly know this when shopping anything on the net?

They said that the Belgian Customs stopped the further shipment of the goods and informed the 2 Birds... To this day, the recipient of the delivery has not received any notification from Belgian Customs that something was not right with the transaction.

The Birds also threatened her with legal actions unless she wrote to them in registered mail or fax (registered mail would probably cost in postage stamps more than the two protective cases, mind you).

I am not aware how she'll eventually react to this incident. I told her to take legal advice and push the case in viral fashion thru Apple forums, blogs, and alike.  The Birds obviously went beyond their way to scare an innocent citizen. In all honesty, I don't understand the Belgian Customs authority either. In the worst of cases, they should at least inform their own law abiding citizen, who is one of the millions among us in a silent crowd, who pay the bleedin' taxes that pay their fat civil servant salaries.

It sounds to me like a scene from "1984"! In the name of trademark infringement, Big Brother Apple, its Bird lawyers, and our beloved and most respected Belgian Customs Authority, all three joining force together to prohibit a simple citizen's reception of her ordered goods. They also asked her to make additional costs (mailing/faxing) for rejecting her ownership rights of the goods. I won't be surprised at all if she gets so pissed about Apple altogether, and never spend a penny on any of their products in the future, and also make sure others (like family and friends) don't do this either... Also lose her scarcely remaining confidence in her own government and its practices... However, these days the latter would be no news to any of us living in this brilliant country.

In my own mental image of Apple, I'd have imagined this particular supplier-to-customer dialog to have gone the following way:

"Dear customer... we have been notified by the Belgian Customs that illegal products were about to be shipped to your address... we regret to inform you that we are in legal actions against your Hong Kong supplier for infringement and malpractices ... unfortunately your ordered products need to be destroyed at the Belgian Customs site... we are very sorry for that... as a token of appreciation for your loyalty to Apple we'll offer you an amount discount to cover your loss should you decide to buy any Apple product of your choice...We thank you for your business and loyalty to Apple... Sincerely..."

That's the Jobs Apple that I'd understand and support. Not the one who resorts into actions like this by a bunch of lawyers with... feathers.

I bet the two Birds have no idea how to tackle Apple customers at all... other than play Big Brother macho big dog game! I wonder whether Jobs is aware of his external lawyer practices vis-a-vis innocent end customers. I despise lawyers! Always did!

I only wish my friend was living in the US, and that Apple tried that trick over there. As a low key low noise obedient Belgian she'll probably give in to that arrogant threat and they'll get away with it the cheapest possible way, they think! In the US she'd simply sue back. I mean, there are shiploads of class actions running against Apple at any given moment, mostly for ridiculous and non-existent causes (like the antenna-gate, among others), right?

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