By Rene Dial
Recently Apple was denied trademark registration for the term “Multi-Touch” for being generic. Let’s see you operate the product by multiple fingers touching the product. Sounds generic so far.
Okay now Apple is not the company that coined the phrase multi-touch as there are others that have trademarked the name for other goods and services way before Apple. DPI Labs in California registered “Multi-Touch” serial number 74438236 for use in switch panels and communication circuits in September 21, 1993.
In the recent decision the court held that “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.” In order for trademark registration a mark must either be distinctive or have acquired a secondary meaning. In order for the mark to be distinctive the mark must be fanciful, arbitrary, or have acquired secondary meaning. At face value “multi-touch” is not arbitrary or fanciful but has it acquired secondary meaning linking the Apple touch screen to the term multi-touch. I doubt it. Below is a list, by Apple, for proper use of its trademarks.
1. Trademarks are adjectives used to modify nouns; the noun is the generic name of a product or service.
2. As adjectives, trademarks may not be used in the plural or possessive form.
Correct: I bought two Macintosh computers.
Not Correct: I bought two Macintoshes.
3. An appropriate generic term must appear after the trademark the first time it appears in a printed piece, and as often as is reasonable after that. Suggested generic terms are provided in the Apple Trademark List which is posted on the Apple web site at:
4. Always spell and capitalize Apple’s trademarks exactly as they are shown in the Apple Trademark List. Do not shorten or abbreviate Apple product names. Do not make up names that contain Apple trademarks.
Apple is not even taking its own advise as they constantly refer to “Multi-Touch” as a noun. “A high-resolution multi-touch display makes it easy to learn and use iPhone. Go here, to learn more about entering text into iPhone’s multi-touch display keyboard.” Apple’s Guideline for proper use of its trademarks number 3 states “An appropriate generic term must appear after the trademark” The generic term is multi-touch display as it appears after the trademark “iPhone.” I wonder if the court referenced Apple’s sight and Apple’s own misuse of Multi-touch.
If I hear more on this I will let you know.
Have a great weekend!