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Apple's iWrite Trademark Application Suggests PDA Device [TMO Scoop]

Apple's iWrite Trademark Application Suggests PDA Device [TMO Scoop]

by , 7:45 PM EDT, August 19th, 2004

Following a tip from one of our guest's comments in John Kheit's column about new Apple trademark applications for iWork, ProBand, and Pod, we found that Apple filed a trademark application for the IWRITE mark on September 15, 2003. ThinkSecret broke the news, and MacRumors subsequently reported on the iWrite filing back in 2003, with the latter speculating it was a word processor, but they probably didn't have access to the descriptions.

Instead, it's fairly clear that iWrite is a name for a PDA that Apple was at least considering at one time; and examining the descriptions of goods that accompanies the application, it may have been a bag of all tricks. Some of the notable descriptions in the trademark filing include: hand held computers, personal digital assistants (PDAs), videophone communications, Internet web surfing, MP3 downloads, video games, e-mail, etc.

Trademarks and trademark classes

The trademarks have an application priority date of March 13, 2003 in Hong Kong, and are designated by EC Serial/Application No. EC003351681, and Canadian Serial/Application No. CA119098300.

The iWrite trademark application has been filed in international classes 9 , 38 and 42. This is important in that trademark classes help define in which areas a particular trademark might apply.

To borrow from something John posted once before, one of the basic purposes of trademarks is to prevent confusion as to the source of services or goods. For example, in this way you don't have two companies making Coca Cola (one using water from Chernobyl and the other using sparkling water as a base).

In such circumstances, only one company can have the trademark on Coca Cola, i.e., the real Coca Cola company, and the third-rate-nuclear imitator would not be allowed to knock-off the product by using the mark.

When there is little likelihood of confusion as to the source of the product, however, you have a greater chance that multiple similar or identical marks can co-exist. This is where the class designation and description of the goods/services that is supplied as part of trademark application become more important.

A germane example is/was Apple Records and Apple Computers. At least back in 1978, arguably, there was little likelihood that the public was going to become confused that the Beatles had suddenly started manufacturing computers or that Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak were secretly writing lyrics for the Fab Four.

Another example might be "New York Subs." This hypothetical maker of sandwiches is not likely to be confused with "New York Subs," a hypothetical maker of underwater sea faring transportation vehicles. Similarly, the public is not likely to think that "Princeton Shoe Repair" is somehow related to "Princeton University."

In such cases, you may find multiple similar or identical marks that are targeted at different industries and or classes, and in such cases they might be able to coexist without confusing the general public as to the source of the goods or services. Accordingly, when filing for a trademark for a mark like iWrite, Apple's job is to supply the areas where the product will be used in order to both keep out any competition wanting to use the name, and to define its own areas in such a way that they don't conflict with existing iWrite trademarks already on the books.

Class 9 (Electrical and Scientific Apparatus)

The class 9 (Electrical and Scientific Apparatus), description for Apple's iWrite trademark application includes the following terms:

COMPUTERS, HAND HELD COMPUTERS, COMPUTER TERMINALS, PERSONAL DIGITAL ASSISTANTS, ELECTRONIC ORGANIZERS, ELECTRONIC NOTEPADS, AND APPARATUS FOR RECORDING, TRANSMISSION AND REPRODUCTION OF SOUNDS, IMAGES, OR OTHER DATA, MAGNETIC DATA CARRIERS; MOBILE DIGITAL ELECTRONIC DEVICES,

[...]

ELECTRONIC HANDHELD DEVICES FOR THE WIRELESS RECEIPT, STORAGE AND/OR TRANSMISSION OF DATA, PARTICULARLY MESSAGES, AND DEVICES THAT ENABLE THE USER TO KEEP TRACK OF OR MANAGE PERSONAL INFORMATION; SOFTWARE FOR THE REDIRECTION OF MESSAGES, INTERNET E-MAIL, AND/OR OTHER DATA TO ONE OR MORE ELECTRONIC HANDHELD DEVICES FROM A DATA STORE ON OR ASSOCIATED WITH A PERSONAL COMPUTER OR A SERVER;

The description also includes many other terms more indirectly relating to mobile computing devices, such as answering machines, database management, and video cameras, all of which could be tangential to direct uses this device might have.

Class 38 (Communication Services)

Class 38 (Communication Services) offers more clues as to iWrite's potential uses as a product involving Internet-based and other global communications:

COMMUNICATIONS AND TELECOMMUNICATIONS SERVICES; PROVISION OF ON-LINE COMMUNICATIONS SERVICES; COMMUNICATIONS VIA A GLOBAL COMPUTER NETWORK OR THE INTERNET; ELECTRONIC MAIL, MESSAGE SENDING AND RECEIVING SERVICES; BROADCASTING SERVICES; PROVISION OF ACCESS TO WEB PAGES; TRANSMISSION AND DISTRIBUTION OF DATA OR AUDIO-VISUAL IMAGES VIA A GLOBAL COMPUTER NETWORK OR THE INTERNET;

And perhaps most tellingly, the application in this class suggests that the iWrite could be used in downloading music:

PROVIDING ACCESS TO MP3 WEB SITES ON THE INTERNET; DELIVERY OF DIGITAL MUSIC BY TELECOMMUNICATIONS; PROVIDING ACCESS TO DIGITAL MUSIC WEB SITES ON THE INTERNET;

Class 42 (Scientific, Technological and Legal Services)

Apple's application for the iWrite mark also included Class 42 (Scientific, Technological and Legal Services). The descriptors in this class are less telling, focusing mainly on computer rental services, programming, consulting services, Web page design and hosting, and other such potential areas where Apple feels the iWrite might be used.

Will he or won't he

An application for a trademark is no guarantee that said trademark will be used, or that it will be used in the exact manner under which the application was made. It is clear, however, that this particular application was made for a PDA or hand held computer that would be called iWrite.

Steve Jobs, however, has said over and over that Apple will not be making PDAs, and the company has also down played the notion of introducing an Apple-branded tablet. Has he or will he change his mind? We can't know, and Apple's policy is to not comment on unannounced products, but it is possible that iWrite might tie into the recent iMac/Tablet story that the Register broke earlier this week (see TMO's coverage for more information).


Bryan Chaffin began using Apple computers in 1983 in a high school BASIC programming class. He started using Macs in 1990 when the Kinko's guy taught him how to use Aldus PageMaker, finally buying a Power Computing Power 100 in 1995. Today, Bryan is the Editor of The Mac Observer, and has contributed to the print versions of MacAddict and MacFormat (UK).

John Kheit is an attorney. Please don't hold that against him. This work does not necessarily reflect the views and/or opinions of The Mac Observer, any third parties, or even John for that matter. No assertions of fact are being made, but rather the reader is simply asked to consider the possibilities.

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