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United States Apple News

Apple Denied Trademark For 'Multi-Touch' 217

Posted by Soulskill
from the have-to-settle-for-imultitouch dept.
suraj.sun sends this excerpt from MacRumors: "In a decision handed down by the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board at the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), Apple has been denied an application for a trademark on Multi-Touch. ... 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."
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Apple Denied Trademark For 'Multi-Touch'

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  • Good News (Score:4, Insightful)

    by SuperKendall (25149) on Monday September 26, 2011 @11:28PM (#37523270)

    It's good to see a common sense result come out of the USPTO, I'm really hopeful that with additional funds gained from the recent patent bill the USPTO will be able to reach similarly sane conclusions when bad software patents are files too.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by dgatwood (11270)

      I'm really hoping for a pony. And unicorns. Just saying.

      • Very true. The only thing that is going to "fix" the problem is due diligence on the public side via constantly coming up with prior art for pathetically generic patent applications.

        • by arbiter1 (1204146)
          just depends on when they applied for it but i put 1000$ that if this was granted today, tomorrow apple would suing anyone they could over it wanting their product off the market.
          • When Apple released the first mobile multi-touch device. And the trademark application is restricted to mobile applications.

            However, it is so basically descriptive I can see denying it. I just hope the USPTO didn't factor in the use of the term today, after Apple already made it popular. That's basically ripping off Apple's work.

            • They did not invent Multi-Touch, or the phrase, They bought the company that did invent it for mobile devices ...but Touch screens were around long before Apple, and Multi-Touch was invented in academia ... the first implementation for a mobile device (long after others had used it in other devices) was by Fingerworks who were bought by Apple after they had been making devices with multi-touch for 6 years ...

              What Innovation did Apple do, they made a popular device incorporating it, and for many people thi

              • Re:Applied in 2007 (Score:4, Informative)

                by MightyYar (622222) on Tuesday September 27, 2011 @08:08AM (#37525444)

                Innovation doesn't count in trademarks either - it is the mark that you use for your trade, that is all. You can be a car mechanic, innovate nothing, and still get the trademark "Fastest Car Care" for your shop.

                If Apple had invented a phrase that wasn't a simple description of what their technology did, they would have been granted the trademark.

              • The USPTO described how the term has taken on generic meaning, specifically mentioning its use on Android phones and tablets. My problem is that they all started using this term well after Apple applied for the trademark.

                The USPTO's two-year wait before official decision itself may have allowed the term to become generic. Had it been awarded within a year, Apple would have had a trademark to defend before Android was even released.

                That's not to mean other reasons for denial are invalid, but this one does st

  • the USPTO would start rejecting vague software patents instead of granting them to every patent-troll that asks for one, the world would be a better place...

    -Keeps dreaming-
    • Re:Now if only... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by dgatwood (11270) on Monday September 26, 2011 @11:40PM (#37523326) Journal

      The problem is that it's relatively easy to conclude that a trademark is descriptive. It's relatively hard, unless you are an expert in a very narrow field, to cut through the B.S. of a typical patent, figure out what it is really supposed to cover, and realize that IBM already did it back in 1963.

      • Re:Now if only... (Score:5, Interesting)

        by gman003 (1693318) on Tuesday September 27, 2011 @12:01AM (#37523444)

        You know, there's a very simple solution to that:

        Allow people to file amicus curiae-style briefs on any pending patent. Bored Slashdot posters alone would be filing "examples of prior art" for pretty much everything.

        • by dgatwood (11270)

          That would assume, however, that they actually want to improve things.... :-)

        • Re:Now if only... (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Sarten-X (1102295) on Tuesday September 27, 2011 @01:52AM (#37523990) Homepage

          Unfortunately, 99.9% of that "prior art" wouldn't actually fit the patent claims, and would be more along the lines of "art that does a similar job differently, and probably happened before the patent". The remaining 0.1% would be mostly things already included in the patent as prior art, but the submitter didn't bother to check that.

          Any time someone suggests letting the public handle anything important directly, I think of 4chan.

          • by HuguesT (84078)

            Agreed, like everyone is a self-appointed expert on everything. Think of these movies stars asked to comment on the economy.

          • by gman003 (1693318)

            That's a good point. You'd probably need to have some restrictions on people filing. Limiting it to "people with a degree in the relevant field" would probably be a good start - it would be wide enough to still be useful, but it would filter out many of the people who don't know what they're talking about.

            • That would filter out all of the tech industry geniuses with no degree for example, and make signup a nightmare. Ah well, nothing a little photoshopping can't take care of, I'm sure.

          • Any time someone suggests letting the public handle anything important directly, I think of 4chan.

            You think of a forum that exists for the express purpose of trolling and stupid humor? Why? Why do you not think of Slashdot instead?

            Imagine this patent comment system required a $10 signup fee and a reputation system that was based solely on the quality of submissions. It would be dead serious and would get the job done well.

            If 50% of the prior art examples that go in are a good fit for the claim I'd say that would be good enough, and it would fix the patents-on-prior-art problem overnight.

            • by zieroh (307208)

              You think of a forum that exists for the express purpose of trolling and stupid humor? Why? Why do you not think of Slashdot instead?

              Same thing, really.

          • Any time someone suggests letting the public handle anything important directly, I think of 4chan.

            Right, because crowdsourcing never works. For instance, it could never solve a complex protein-folding problem and get an article published in Nature [forbes.com]

            • by idontgno (624372)

              They lucked out. If it had attracted the attention of Anonymous, the lulz would have been epic, and the research would have been doomed.

              Crowdsourcing, like democracy, is subject to the extremes of the crowd. The wisdom of a crowd of fools is not high, even in aggregate.

      • Re:Now if only... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by MightyMartian (840721) on Tuesday September 27, 2011 @01:12AM (#37523798) Journal

        The obvious solution to software patent is to simply not allow them. That requires no expertise in a narrow field, it simply requires that if it is not a mechanical or physical invention, you can't patent it, so applicants can fuck off.

        • by MightyYar (622222)

          If I have two inventions, and they do the exact same thing, but one uses an analog circuit and the other a microprocessor with software logic - why can I patent the analog circuit version but not the software version that does the same thing?

    • Americans would fund their government departments instead of asking them to be commercially indepedent so that instead of focussing on collecting as many fees as possible they can focus on quality.

      But then, an American might have to pay TAXES! Boogaa boogaa! Cut funding to the bone and yet get bare bones service.

      The USPTO is as good and as bad as Americans are allowing it to be through their votes for tax cuts.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 26, 2011 @11:36PM (#37523312)

    How could Apple try to trademark 'Multi-touch' with a straight face?

    This is like Ford trying to trademark 'Four-wheel drive' or Sony trying to trade mark 'Entertainment Center'.

    Blatantly trying to abuse the system like this should warrant a paddling.

    • by E.I.A (2303368) on Tuesday September 27, 2011 @12:10AM (#37523476) Homepage Journal
      "How could Apple try to trademark 'Multi-touch' with a straight face?" They can't; that's why they do it with a flagrantly crooked one. Regarding penalties, I simply won't touch a Mac, or any Mac product. Especially after they fussed with that patent to remotely disable video on "smart" phones.
      • "How could Apple try to trademark 'Multi-touch' with a straight face?" They can't; that's why they do it with a flagrantly crooked one. Regarding penalties, I simply won't touch a Mac, or any Mac product. Especially after they fussed with that patent to remotely disable video on "smart" phones.

        They probably used the same face that Google used when they trademarked: DIAGNOSTICS, CONTENT EXCHANGE, ENCRYPTED STREAMING MEDIA, LIKE and DOUBLECLICK. Corporations will apply for all sorts of crap just to see what they get away with just like tourists will raid the hotel buffet even though it isn't included in the super saver bargain basement economy vacation package because the worst that can happen is an embarrassing 15 seconds of looking like a cheapskate in front of dozens of people you'll never see

    • by samkass (174571) on Tuesday September 27, 2011 @12:13AM (#37523496) Homepage Journal

      It's not as preposterous as it seems, especially considering how long these application processes can take. Before the iPhone, almost no one used the term "multi-touch". Here's Google's trending on the term. [google.com] Note that the iPhone was released in 2007. As the USPTO rightly points out, it is more descriptive than distinctive and has rapidly become a common phrase, so they rightly denied the trademark. But it probably didn't seem as preposterous when the request was originally made.

    • Any corporation in Apple's position would try the same thing. Business is a game of market lockout. They gave it their best shot (while trying to keep a straight face), and USPTO called their bluff. End of story.
    • by horza (87255)

      Even more farcical than trying to trademark something like "App Store". Though not quite as bad as claiming ownership on the idea of a rectangular shape with a touchscreen.

      Phillip.

    • by drolli (522659)

      Be quiet!

      Dont give out stupid ideas to Sony what should be trademarked.

    • by MightyYar (622222)

      Honestly, had you ever used the phrase prior to 2007? That's when they filed for the trademark.

      • Have you heard the term tyrosine kinase inhibitor? Well people in cancer research know it. If some major cancer cures come out based on it .. it'll be a household term. Similarly people in the human interfaces business have been using the term multi-touch. Here is an example from 1999:

        http://www.ee.udel.edu/~westerma/main.pdf [udel.edu]

        • by MightyYar (622222)

          Exactly! If someone tried to get a trademark on tyrosine kinase inhibitor it would be shot down because it is too descriptive, not because it is in general use. It's almost the perfect analogy, except for the obvious lack of being a car analogy :)

          But someone could easily get a trademark for "Tyro-Kin", even though it's a place in Kazakhstan.

          The point of trademark is commercial use, not whether a word existed or not. Singer is a person who sings, a sewing machine brand, and a big food service company. Even i

    • This is like Ford trying to trademark 'Four-wheel drive' or Sony trying to trade mark 'Entertainment Center'.

      Well, Volkswagen managed to trademark "turbocharged diesel injection".

      I guess the difference here is whether multitouch per se was Apple innovation or not. So far as I know, it was not - the concept itself was well-understood before Apple picked it up, they were just the first to build their UI around it, and particularly to implement some gestures now in common use (such as pinch-to-zoom).

  • by plover (150551) * on Monday September 26, 2011 @11:42PM (#37523344) Homepage Journal

    It should be easy to come up with a less-descriptive name. They could call it "Squidly", "Octie", "Starfish", or "Tentacular", something that makes people think of multi-touch creatures.

    Or they could do it like companies did in the mid 20th century, by deliberately misspelling parts of the name: "Multy-Tuuch", "Mani-Fyngers", or "Repeat-O-Poke". Or maybe something more 90's, like "Apple Bob". In the 2000's Apple did a great job marketing the iFixing of nouns, so they could use something like "iSteve" or "iMultitouch" or "iShocker" (rule 34 dictated I had to place that one in here.) They could stick with the Apple theme and call it something like a "Granny Smith" or "Honey Crisp".

    Anyway, there are lots of names they could trademark. They just have to pick one.

  • by G3ckoG33k (647276) on Monday September 26, 2011 @11:57PM (#37523428)

    Google Patent gave me 991 hits for "multitouch". The oldest was from 1972 and used as:

    "In an example of practice of the invention, a foil electret for use in a multitouch selector was prepared from a 1 mil (25.4 micrometer) thin film of polyfluoroethylene-propylene plastic material, marketed commercially under the tradename TEFLON FEP, with a 1,000 A. metallic layer on one of its surfaces."

    Sure sounds like people understood the concept of multitouch years before Apple was even founded.

    • by Osgeld (1900440)

      yes its not really a ground breaking idea, and even those crappy touchpads on laptops years before apple started doing it supported "multitouch" 1 finger for left click, 2 for right or 2 in the special places to scroll around ... first saw those back when apple was still sending out trackballs on their lappies

      Now just because they found a new gimmick for that idea they feel the need to own it, no matter who invented it.

    • Google Patent gave me 991 hits for "multitouch"

      Yes, but how is that relevant for a Trademark request?

      • It shows it was the common term in the field and well understood in the field

        Everyone in the field who was working on it commonly referred to it as Multi-Touch or Multitouch as a technical term that they assumed would be understood,usage outside the field is not important ...

        Try and trademark a widely used technical term from any field and see how far you get

    • Multitouch would even be possible with those ancient infrared-grid touchscreens. I'd be shocked if there was no patent for multitouch on those.

  • by organgtool (966989) on Tuesday September 27, 2011 @12:00AM (#37523440)
    While Apple may have been one of the first companies that implemented multi-touch, there is nothing novel about the concept. It was made possible by the invention of capacitive touch screens (which Apple had nothing to do with - Apple was simply one of the first companies to use a capacitive touch screen) and it was widely known that one of the advantages of capacitive touch screens over resistive touch screens was that capacitive touch screens were superior for multi-touch. Therefore, Apple patented the concept of using someone else's new technology for one of it's primary intended purposes.
    • Therefore, Apple patented the concept of using someone else's new technology for one of it's primary intended purposes.

      This isn't about patents, it's about the combination of two words, "multi-touch" and whether you can trademark them. Prior art has nothing to do with it. Even if the phrase 'multi-touch' was used in connection with touch screen technology in 1972, 1984 or whenever in some obscure articles or CS papers, isn't really that important. I'm pretty sure the phrase "encrypted streaming media" was in general use for describing "encrypted streaming media" way before Google successfully trademarked it. What is import

  • Sometimes when we touch, the feelings get to be too much.
  • by mattr (78516) <mattr&telebody,com> on Tuesday September 27, 2011 @05:02AM (#37524640) Homepage Journal

    If you quietly glance out the corner of your eye, you might glimpse the most successful company in the nation floundering, losing its guts, for want of the vision of a charismatic individual.

    • by jo_ham (604554)

      Yes, I can see how a trademark application that was applied for in 2007 when the original iPhone launched finally being decided on in 2011 as a clear indication that Apple is "floundering" now that Steve Jobs has moved from CEO to chairman of the board.

      I mean, really?

      • by omnichad (1198475)

        In other news, it takes FOUR YEARS just to get a simple trademark application approved/denied.

  • by StormReaver (59959) on Tuesday September 27, 2011 @07:15AM (#37525088)

    OMG! The USPTO actually denied something? Maybe Apple should have tried patenting multi-touch "with a computer," seeing as that phrase is the secret pass code for getting a patent on otherwise unpatentable trivialities.

    • by esocid (946821)

      OMG! The USPTO actually denied something? Maybe Apple should have tried patenting multi-touch "with a computer," seeing as that phrase is the secret pass code for getting a patent on otherwise unpatentable trivialities.

      Apple is smarter than that. They would add multitouch with "a portable multifunction device with one or more processors, memory, and a touch screen display."

  • Just to be absolutely clear, for everyone who doesn't know, Apple's multi-touch technology was bought from a company called Fingerworks, which sold a multi-touch gesture keyboard a decade ago. I bought one then, and still have it. We all called that thing a multi-touch keyboard, and I'm not sure but if Fingerworks didn't trademark "multi-touch", then it seems to me that Apple officially missed the boat.

    • They didn't trademark it ... because the term was in common usage then, by all the people working on Multi-Touch, many of whom were referenced in their founder Wayne Westerman's doctoral dissertation

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