Apple (Not Intel) Applies for Thunderbolt Trademark

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ThunderboltApple has applied for a trademark on the name Thunderbolt, the data I/O technology unveiled earlier this year on the MacBook Pro and iMac. Intel is credited as the creator of the technology by both companies, though Apple is also credited as a collaborator, and thus it comes as a surprise that Apple is pursuing the trademark on the Thunderbolt name.

On its website, Apple calls Thunderbolt a, “revolutionary I/O technology that supports high-resolution displays and high-performance data devices through a single, compact port.”

Apple also said, “Thunderbolt began at Intel Labs with a simple concept: create an incredibly fast input/output technology that just about anything can plug into. After close technical collaboration between Intel and Apple, Thunderbolt emerged from the lab to make its appearance in the new MacBook Pro and the new iMac.”

Electronista first noted that Apple had applied for the name in the U.S. and Canada. The company is trying to leverage a trademark on Thunderbolt granted in Jamaica in 2010 for some extra oomph in getting the U.S. and Canadian rights to the name.

The surprise comes from the fact that Apple itself credited Intel with the trademark on Thunderbolt on packaging for MacBook Pros when the technology was unveiled, as noted by AppleInsider. The reality, however, is that Intel isn’t listed with any such trademark with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office, and on May 6th, Apple applied for the mark itself.

This leaves open the question of whether Intel intends to market the technology under the Thunderbolt name, though that is precisely what Intel is doing as of this writing.

When Apple led the invention process for the technology that was eventually labeled IEEE 1394, the company marketed it as “FireWire,” while Sony called it “iLink” (iLink didn’t carry power like FireWire did, and used a different connector, but it was otherwise 1394), and the rest of the PC industry largely called it either IEEE 1394 or FireWire, if they called it anything.

Under this scenario, Apple might be the only company to use the Thunderbolt name, while the rest of the PC industry called it something else.

Another possibility would be that Apple is securing the trademark for eventual transfer to Intel, perhaps because of the Jamaican trademark that had already been granted. Apple could even be grabbing the name before some other third party tries to nab it and extort licensing money from Intel, Apple, and anyone else wanting to use it.

The bottom line is that it is a mystery why Apple is trying to trademark the name of a technology developed for Apple by one of Apple’s partners.

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4 Comments

Lee Dronick

“Under this scenario, Apple might be the only company to use the Thunderbolt name, while the rest of the PC industry called it something else.”

Usually they name something that sounds like it came from a random password generator.

Bryan Chaffin

It’s true. smile

With Thunderbolt all over Intel’s site, however, I would be surprised if that scenario played out.

It is curious, though.

Nemo

Bryan:  Though one acquires a trademark by using it in commerce or rights in a trademark for a limited time, prior to using it in commerce by registering it with the USPTO, either Apple or Intel must secure this the Thunderbolt mark before someone else tries to do so.

The other interesting thing is exactly what the agreement between Apple and Intel regarding Thunderbolt (f.k.a. Light Peak).  Apple clearly contributed some technology to Thunderbolt and that has given Apple some special privileges regarding Thunderbolt, but Thunderbolt is being licensed to all on the same terms so that all can use it.  Yet, it is not clear what substantial special privileges Apple may have received, if any, in Thunderbolt.  Could Apple’s contributions have won it the right to use the name Thunderbolt?  Or is Apple simply securing the name because its Jamaican filing places it in the best position to register the Thunderbolt mark here and internationally?

We will have to wait and see, unless Bryan can shake something lose from his sources inside Apple.

wab95

prior to using it in commerce by registering it with the USPTO, either Apple or Intel must secure this the Thunderbolt mark before someone else tries to do so

My wife made a similar comment last night when I asked her about this (she’s an attorney, specialising in contracts, patents, etc).

Concur that we will have to wait and see about the remainder.

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