Who really owns the iPad?
Ahh, the iPad – the word that's been filling the tech world over the past day. But it's not an all new name. While Apple may have the mindshare on iProducts, it doesn't have ownership over all iNames.
There's no better case in point than with the new world-known iPhone – a name that was owned by Cisco before Apple made things nice in a negotiated settlement.
Now the same thing may happen again with the iPad – a name that's owned by Japanese company Fujitsu. And it's not a simple matter of a trademark confusion between a new tablet and a type of feminine hygiene technology; the iPad from Fujitsu is a touchscreen Windows CE device helps shop clerks verify prices, check real-time inventory data and close sales on the go. It can even run Skype.
"Mobile is a keyword for Fujitsu’s iPad, too," said Masahiro Yamane, director of Fujitsu’s public relations division, to the New York Times. "With the iPad, workers don’t have to keep running back to a computer. They have everything right at their fingertips."
So what's the deal with the name? This is where things get messy, as Engadget figures in its summary.
Fujitsu applied for the "iPad" mark in 2003, specifically covering handheld devices used in retail. (The Fujitsu iPad is a $2,000 Windows CE point-of-sale device.) Along the way, the application got bogged down because a company called Mag-Tek had already registered IPAD for its line of PIN-entry keypads, and Fujitsu's application was listed as "abandoned" in April of 2009. The notice of abandonment apparently woke someone at Fujitsu up, because the company then asked the Trademark Office to re-open the application, arguing that Mag-Tek's IPAD had nothing to do with the Fujitsu iPad. The USPTO agreed, re-opened the application, and the process continued until September, when the iPad application was published so other trademark holders could oppose registration. That's when Apple signaled that it wasn't so happy about things -- and filed its own "iPad" trademark application using a shell company called "IP Application Development."
Phew -- still with us? That leaves us at now, with Mag-Tek selling the IPAD under a valid, registered trademark, Fujitsu selling an iPad with a pending trademark application, and Apple sucking all the air out of the room with the launch of the iPad and no US trademark at all.
With the iPad launching in late March, that leaves little time for Apple to get things sorted with Fujitsu.
“It’s our understanding that the name is ours,” Yamane said.
This could get interesting.