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Apple has been busy over the past couple of weeks. Along with its best-ever earnings, Apple also launched the highly anticipated touchscreen tablet known as the iPad. However, along with these exciting developments come contemporaneous trademark issues. In fact, Apple will likely face a legal battle with Fujitsu, a Japanese technology company that claims to own the iPad name. Fujitsu’s iPad is a $2,000 mobile device created to help sales associates and managers in making sales and checking inventory data. Released in 2002, it uses a Windows operating system, and the features include a color display, keypad, and WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity. However, Fujitsu’s trademark ownership has been a bit rocky. The company received a trademark in 2003, but the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office claimed that Fujitsu had abandoned it in April 2009. While the name then became available for Apple to use, Fujitsu subsequently reapplied for the trademark in June of the same year. That application is still outstanding. At about the same time, Apple filed its own iPad trademark application using a shell company.
However, Fujitsu is not alone in claiming ownership over the moniker. STMicroelectronics, Europe’s largest chipmaker, has an IPAD (Integrated Passive and Active Devices) trademark for its proprietary semiconductor technology, and it has been using the name since 2000. Magtek, a security technology company, offers an IPAD handheld POS terminal. Siemens has the right to use the term for its engines and motors. Even Coconut Grove Pads has had the right to the name for padded bras since 2008.
This is not the first trademark dispute that Apple has faced. In fact, Apple seems to be a repeat offender and may be feeling a bit of déjà vu. Legal issues also accompanied the highly successful launch of the iPhone. Cisco Systems filed a lawsuit the day after Apple announced the iPhone product. Apple and Cisco had reportedly been negotiating terms for Apple to license the name from Cisco for more than two years, but the companies had not yet reached an accord when the iPhone was revealed. Ultimately, the suit resulted in a settlement in which both companies agreed to share the name.
As Apple is dominating the market on various electronic devices, the company gives the impression of feeling a bit invincible. It seems Apple follows the adage “it’s better to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission,” and this approach has been effective. But, the legal issues hardly seem worth it. Other names rumored to have been in the mix, such as iSlate, would be just as, if not more, effective. While iPad follows the trend set by iPod and iPhone, the similarity between the names may lead to customer confusion. Ultimately, Apple will likely reach an amicable settlement to share the moniker, but one has to question the iPad choice.
– Kat Kubis
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