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The Missing Apple Trademarks

Posted in Articles, Branding, Famous Marks, Marketing, Squirrelly Thoughts, Technology, Trademarks

Far be it from me to criticize a company hoarding over $250 billion in cash reserves – but, hey Apple, why aren’t you filing trademark applications?

Perhaps no company’s IP portfolio is of greater interest to the general public than Apple, Inc.’s colossus. (If you disagree, find me another website dedicated solely to one company’s patent filings.) It’s certainly a company about which we (read: I) have posted before. So when Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference kicked off earlier this month, and the tech giant unveiled new products, it’s mere reflex to check the Trademark Office for new filings.

Two of Apple’s newest offerings – the HomePod smart speaker, and the macOS High Sierra operating system update – generated considerable buzz and, well, “mixedreactions for the naming decisions. Even Apple joked that the High Sierra software name was “fully baked.”

But a check of the Trademark Office reveals Apple has not sought federal trademark protection for these new names – at least not yet. A search of the TESS database for “HOMEPOD” finds only two dead applications from 2009 and 2008, and a “HIGH SIERRA” search produces 71 matches (including, naturally, HIGH SIERRA VAPES), but no applications owned by Apple.

It stands to reason this may be part of a change in strategy for Apple. One might think the “iPhone” trademark was a slam dunk for the company, as the name is so closely associated with its ubiquitous smartphone. But in fact Apple’s use of the iPhone trademark was made possible only after negotiations with Cisco, Inc., which continues to own a registration for IPHONE dating back to 1999, some eight years prior to the Apple smartphone’s introduction.

And a look at Apple’s PR page reveals a certain irreverence for typical trademark branding and notice standards. A press release for the new iPad models contains nary a single ® or ™ symbol, and makes deliberate use of “iPad” as a noun for the product itself (instead of, say, “iPad tablet”). Even Apple’s boilerplate press release biography shies away from any mention of a registered trademark:

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As the slogan suggests, when it comes to trademarks, Apple and outside trademark counsel may well Think Different.