Japanese iOS app developer Emonster has filed a lawsuit against Apple in US federal court over the use of its trademark, “Animoji” — first registered in March of 2015 — for an app published in July of 2014. The company’s CEO is a US citizen living in Japan and is listed as a plaintiff in the suit.

The suit claims that Apple had recognized the trademark well before it released a feature to send messages with a facial-mapped emoji animation — exclusive to the iPhone X at this time.

Before Apple announced its Animoji feature, it had recognized Plaintiffs’ senior rights to ANIMOJI. Apple itself removed an ANIMOJI-infringing third party app from Apple’s App Store after Plaintiffs requested it. Yet Apple
went ahead and announced—with great fanfare, including personal promotion by senior Apple executives—a new iPhone feature called “Animoji.” Apple’s “Animoji” feature deliberately infringes on Plaintiffs’ ANIMOJI mark.

The app, which animates emoji in a looped series of images, has gotten over 5,000 downloads in the US and over 18,000 globally since 2014 — whether or not that counts for wide appeal is up to how far this suit goes.

Apple claims through a petition, obtained by The Verge, filed in September that the trademark is registered to a non-existent entity thanks to a clerical error and, therefore, Emonster does not actually own the trademark. Emonster has filed for another application.

Emonster is looking for an injunction on Apple’s use of the term and unspecified monetary damages.

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