A couple of months ago, I wrote about a potential trademark dispute stemming from Apple’s intended use of the name IPAD in connection with its soon-to-be-released tablet computer device. As a refresher, Fujitsu has owned a pending application for IPAD since 2003 for a “hand-held computing device for wireless networking in a retail environment.” According to the application, Fujitsu’s use of IPAD commenced back in 2002. The application was published for opposition on September 1, 2009 and Apple was granted by the Trademark Office a deadline of February 28, 2010 to challenge it, most likely on the basis of Apple’s prior use and likelihood of confusion with its famous IPOD mark.
Well, it appears that Fujitsu has assigned to Apple all of its ownership rights in the name IPAD, effective March 1, 2010. The screenshot below is straight from the Trademark Office’s records and indicates that the assignment was recorded on March 17, 2010.
Of course, we’ll probably never know how much money exchanged hands or what the exact details of the arrangement between Apple and Fujitsu are, but I think it’s somewhat probable that Fujitsu and Apple entered into a licensing agreement whereby Apple owns the IPAD trademark and Apple exclusively licenses it to Fujitsu (royalty-free) for use solely in connection with its retail-environment computing device. A happy ending for everyone!
So, all of Apple’s loyal worshipers can now breathe a sigh of relief that receipt of their iPads will not be delayed and that Apple’s trademark troubles are over, right? Not so fast. Between the time I first posted on this topic and today, an individual by the name of Marc Angell filed two new applications for IPAD (Serial Nos. 77932073 and 77932051) for protective covers, pads, and sleeves used with laptop computers. In both applications, Mr. Angell claims a first use of the IPAD mark dating back to 2005. It’s also worth noting that Mr. Angell applied to register IPAD in 2004 for nearly identical products, but his application went abandoned in 2006 for failure to prove to the Trademark Office that he was actually using the IPAD mark in commerce. Additionally, I laughed when I saw that Mr. Angell also currently owns a pending application for GTUNES for services identical to those provided under Apple’s ITUNES mark, and that he was the owner of a now abandoned application for BLUEBERRY for products and services identical to those offered by Research In Motion under its extremely well-known BLACKBERRY mark. Quite the character this Mr. Angell is, don’t you agree? Seriously, I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried.
But, that’s not all. A Pennsylvania company by the name of RXD Media, LLC has also filed an application for IPAD for “providing temporary use of a web-based software application for mobile-access database management whereby users can store and access their personal information.” RXD Media claims it first used IPAD as early as 2007, which, of course, predates Apple’s filing date of its own IPAD application in January 2010.
So, where do these new developments leave Apple in terms of ownership of the IPAD name? Judging from the timing of these applications and the immense publicity surrounding the launch of Apple’s iPad device, I think it’s crystal clear that Mr. Angell and RXD Media are setting themselves up to potentially file oppositions against Apple on the basis of their alleged priority in the IPAD trademark and to negotiate an assignment of their alleged rights to Apple in return for a modest monetary payment, not unlike what probably occurred between Apple and Fujitsu. Maybe they’ll just settle for a free iPad and a $100 iTunes gift card.
Anyway, I’ll continue to monitor this situation and will report new developments as I learn of them. In the meantime, I suggest all of you think of the next “i” name Apple is going to adopt, apply to register it, and then just patiently wait until Apple announces that it has decided to sell its next big product under that same name. Then, hire me to hold Apple hostage until the demanded ransom is paid. Oops, did I say that? I meant hire me to hold good-faith negotiations with Apple in the hope of amicably and promptly resolving the matter.