Say, for example, I have created a product which is compatible with a specific existing technology. Like an Apple iPhone case.

I would like to tell the user that my new case can be used with their apple device. How do name my device such that it doesn't infringe on the apple trademark but still tells the user what it is?

For example, can I name my case as an "Apple iPhone Case", or would that be trademark infringement? If not, what is allowed?

  • 2
    Those sold in the shop often state their own trademarks and names, and then separately refer to the intended use with some variant on "compatible with BigProduct(tm)". I'm not sure of the rights surrounding that usage though, but it's a route to investigate.
    – user4657
    Jul 31, 2016 at 9:55

1 Answer 1


This is known as nominative fair use.

The leading case in the US is New Kids on the Block v. News America Publishing, Inc., 971 F.2d 302, 306 (9th Cir. 1992).

The International Trademark Association (ITA) summarizes:

Nominative fair use generally is permissible as long as (1) the product or service in question is not readily identifiable without use of the trademark, (2) only so much of the mark is used as is reasonably necessary to identify the product or service and (3) use of the mark does not suggest sponsorship or endorsement by the trademark owner.

The ITA uses iPhone cases as an example of allowable nominative use:

Use of “iPhone” in non-stylized form on packaging for phone cases to indicate that it is usable with iPhone 6.

Here is an example of that by J.Crew.

You must log in to answer this question.