Apple’s application to trademark the term ‘multi-touch’ has been denied by the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board at the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). The company applied for the trademark way back on January 9, 2007 — the day the first iPhone was introduced.
The USPTO argues that the term ‘multi-touch’ now has a generic meaning that describes how a user operates certain devices — like nearly every smartphone and tablet now on the market. As MacRumors notes:
For trademarks, “the greater the degree of descriptiveness the term has, the heavier the burden to prove it has attained secondary meaning.” The trademark attorney pointed out that the term “multitouch” has taken on generic meaning, being used by a wide variety of publications to describe the touchscreen technology on Android phones, tablets, and notebooks.
It’s no wonder, then, that Apple’s application was refused. However, the Cupertino company isn’t happy about the decision. It has already appealed the initial decision to the Appeal Board, but unfortunately for Apple, the board only supported the refusal to grant the trademark.
A lawyer for the USPTO explained the decision:
Thus, from the foregoing, we find that “multi-touch” not only identifies the technology, but also describes how a user of the goods operates the device. Based on the evidence discussed above, as well as other evidence in the record, we agree with the examining attorney that MULTI-TOUCH indeed is highly descriptive of a feature of the identified goods. We now consider whether applicant has submitted sufficient evidence to establish acquired distinctiveness of this highly descriptive term.
The full decision — if you really have nothing better to do this morning — can be read on Scribd.
It’s no surprise to me that Apple’s application was denied, and I dread to think what kind of wrath it would be unleashing on all of its rivals had it been granted the trademark. Thankfully, the decision will save us another truck-load of Apple courtroom stories.
Do you think Apple has the right to own the term ‘multitouch’?