US rejects Apple's "multi-touch" trademark request

Posted by Mark Raby

The US Patent and Trademark office will not be granting Apple the exclusive rights to the term "multi-touch."

The regulatory agency released an 18-page review of Apple's request, which was sent in years ago, but it really boils down to one sentence: "Simply because the applied-for term has been used in association with a highly successful product does not mean the term has acquired distinctiveness."

The decision will hopefully give Apple a much needed slice of humble pie, and it also sets a precedent for potential future patent and trademark cases, especially from Apple.

Right now, Apple is also waiting to hear a final ruling from the patent office about the term "App Store," which it filed for the exclusive rights to as well.

Other mobile app distribution platforms have refrained from using the same term because of the fact that Apple has applied for a trademark on it.

However, Amazon decided not to play such games and launched its digital download store called the Amazon Appstore. Apple sued, but has faced many setbacks in the case. In a recent ruling, the judge said it would be highly unlikely for a consumer to confuse the two platforms, which is a necessary component for someone to win a lawsuit like this.

Amazon's argument is that the term "App Store" is just like "Toy Store" or "Hardware Store" and cannot possibly be owned by just one company. The judge did not fully agree with that logic, but nevertheless it seems unlikely Apple will be granted the trademark.

Likewise, "multi-touch" seems rather generic and is merely describing the function of a display. It's very different than creating a brand new term.

In short, the patent office concluded, "We are not sympathetic to applicant's arguments that the success of the product sold under the iPhone trademark translates to acquired distinctiveness of the term multi-touch."