Apple’s “Multi-touch” Trademark Application Rejected by the USPTO

By Joseph Mandour on September 30, 2011

California Trademark LawLos Angeles – The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) will not be granting Apple exclusive trademark rights for the term “multi-touch.”

Apple’s request for the trademark, which was submitted years ago, was denied, according to an 18-page review by the USPTO, because there is no evidence that “simply because the applied-for term has been used in association with a highly successful product does not mean the term has acquired distinctiveness.”

The patent and trademark office concluded in its report, “We are not sympathetic to applicant’s arguments that the success of the product sold under the iPhone trademark translates to acquired distinctiveness of the term multi-touch.”

Apple is currently also anticipating a final decision from the USPTO regarding the term “App Store,” which it filed for exclusive trademark rights as well.  Fearing the threat of potential litigation, other mobile app distribution platforms have refrained from using the term since Apple has already applied for it.  However, despite Apple’s pending trademark application, Amazon went ahead and launched its digital download store called the Amazon Appstore.  In a predictable response, Apple filed a lawsuit but has faced scrutiny from the court.  In a recent ruling, the judge determined that a likelihood of confusion between the two platforms did not exist, a component that would be necessary to prove for Apple to win the lawsuit.

Amazon claims that the term “App Store” is generalized like “Toy Store” or “Hardware Store” and no one individual company should have exclusive rights to use it.  Amazon’s argument did not completely earn support from the judge, however it appears that Apple will not be granted the trademark.

Perhaps Apple, known for keeping things simple, should be less generic with its terminology, and use more creative terms for its products’ features that cannot be disputed by the USPTO or its competitors.

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