back to article Apple loses bid to trademark 'multi-touch'

The US Patent and Trademark Office has rejected Apple's appeal to obtain a trademark for the term "multi-touch". "Simply because the applied-for term has been used in association with a highly successful product does not mean the term has acquired distinctiveness," concludes the USPTO's Trademark Trial and Appeal Board in an …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    common sense

    looks like 2011 is the year of the common sense decisions. look forward to all these silly legal fights to be over with the obvious result. Apple, get back to being innovative rather than stifling.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      If this was a straight fight between Apple and a foreign competitor things would have gone Apple's way.

      1. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

        That is often true

        The USPTO has a mixed history in this respect, to put it diplomatically.

  2. Craigness

    They want to be able to advertise that they are the only ones who offer "multi touch". It wouldn't improve customer choice or innovation, it would just round up the sort of people who think that because only Apple has Facetime that they need an iPhone for video talking and deliver them to the expensive, 2nd rate option.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Fairly recently Apple advertised that you could get a Mac with a built in memory stick reader, but you couldn't get a PC with said device built in. This confused people on two counts firstly that it wasn't true and secondly that to most people a memory stick is just the name for a USB stick. Sony's proprietory memory card is called Memory Stick, Memory Stick Pro or Memory Stick Pro Duo, etc. and that is what Apple were refering to.

      I suspect most people were confused because they weren't even aware that Memory Stick was the name for a particular memory card and Apple didn't mention Sony. But the main reason for the confusion was that Sony should never have been allowed to register the term Memory Stick as a trademark.

      It's a shame the people who refused the multi-touch trademark weren't at work the day Sony applied for their trademark.

  3. Arctic fox

    In the event that you make a very successful product........

    ........your brand name or something associated with that product may be taken *into* the language. The classic example is of course to "hoover" and in modern times, to "google". However what Apple are trying to do is to take something *from* the language - the courts should give them a very dusty reply.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      IMHO "google" isn't as generic as "hoover"

      I'll probably call it "hoovering" if I'm using a vacuum cleaner from Electrolux or Dyson. I wouldn't call it "googling" if I'm using Bing. To "google" appears generic because Google is by far the biggest player.

      1. tamar1n47

        why would you be using bing?

      2. Arctic fox

        I am not going to argue over this point...............

        ...........I simply chose two examples (one classic, one modern) of how trademarks come *into* the language as a contrast to an attempt to shanghai parts of our language and treat them as corporate property.

      3. Darryl

        ya, but

        you call it "hoovering", the rest of the world calls it "vacuuming"

    2. dssf


      It bugs the living shit out of me when well-educated, well-respected coworkers say "Xerox this for me" when instead they should say "photocopy this for me" or something. When we had a Toshiba copier, no one said, "Toshibize this for me, please." Now we have a Konica-Minolta, and no one says, "Konickize this for me/Kinolta this for me...".

      I don't Hoover my room, and I don't Shark it, either. I vacuum clean my room's floor (technically, it's not even being cleanend unless I get down on my hands and knees with water, soap, and a towel or sponge....).


  4. Daf L

    It's a shame...

    ,,,that Apple have decided that their major way of retaining a strong market position is to take a pre-meditated sham legal fight to crush competition rather than let their, often impressive, industrial design win the argument.

    They are no longer protecting their intellectual property but are now seeking to own the intellectual property landscape by blurring the division between original Apple innovation and Apple used innovations.

    Can all the effort and energy involved in multiple courtrooms really not affect the primary focus of a company? The last big company that tried to beat over competition using the courts rather than product was SCO who are now just a 'courtroom file' of a company,

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      A patent lawyer once told me that company that has run out of new ideas will try to stifle competition through the courts, because they are no longer capable of innovation.

      Sounds like a fair description of Apple.

  5. JaitcH

    Apple, both word & logo, copied - and they are still at it

    Both the word apple along with the logo were used by other computer companies long before Jobs' decided to co-opt them.

    I was looking at microfiched copies of electronic magazines and at least three companies used them before 1976 April, the month of Apple's founding.

    As for App Store, a store on Nguyen Thi Minh Khai Street in SaiGon has changed it's name from Apple - after protests from another nearby store of the same name and gas now laid claim to the name App Store!

    And both are registered companies. Take that, Jobs.

  6. Big-nosed Pengie

    Could this mean that that P&TMO has finally employed someone with more than two functioning brain cells? Be still my beating heart!

  7. Geoffrey Kim
    Thumb Down

    no trade mark on multi-touch?

    Oh how sad! You did not get to trademark multi-touch!

    Let me in on a little secret that I have.

    I will apply for trademark


    and file a lawsuit against Apple Inc for infringing on my trademark

    and maybe I may become the most successful Tech company in the century

    I have none other than Apple Inc in giving me hints on trade marking such a trivial items.

    Keep filing lawsuits and anyone can become the most successful IT company and become a billionaire in the process.

    Thanks Apple Inc.

    1. Oninoshiko

      Didn't work for the (older) Apple Records (any of the number of times they sued).

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward


        apple records did win there original court battle with apple computers and apple computers were only allowed to carry on trading under the name of apple so long as they did not move into the music industry....

        not long after, they dropped the computer part of the apple computer name and then some time later opened up the itunes store.... why apple records did not go after them I dont know... in all probability its too late now.... maybe they did not think they could come out on top of another leagal battle with them?

  8. kain preacher Silver badge

    @common sense

    Not really, more of apple was incredible dumb. It's like trade marking the phrase car keys, plug n play or normal sex.

    1. Thomas 4
      Thumb Up

      Trademarking "normal sex"

      The potential profit in this idea is astronomical.

      "Engage in BDSM or be sued."

      1. Francis Boyle Silver badge

        Would it be infringment

        if I wore just one rubber glove?

      2. dssf

        "Engage the BSDM or be sued"

        En(d)gage in the S&MDB and be USED"

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Missionary position, you mean?

      You sick fuck (as they'd say on 4chan)

    3. CD001

      If you can come up with a single term or phrase that defines "normal sex" ... you need to live more ... seriously.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        I always laugh when the tabloids refer to "full sex". I'm sure that the act(s) that constitute "full sex" vary from person to person.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Indeed, sir!

          LOL! Arguably one of the most successful US Presidents of modern time (particularly in retrospect) almost lost his job over this very (somewhat sticky) legal question.

          Oh, Billy, ... we hardly knew ye, and yet we miss thee so....

  9. Geoffrey Kim
    Thumb Down

    keep trying

    Apple should keep trying to trademark anything. Maybe mouse, keyboard, computer monitor, etc., etc. I mean Apple trademarked just about anything imaginable and claim that it's theirs. So keep on trying and maybe you'll luck out.

  10. Eddy Ito Silver badge

    For the Apple attorneys.

    I have two cheeks, does that make my toilet seat multi-touch?

    1. dssf

      "I have two cheeks, does that make my toilet seat multi-touch?"

      Not unless you grab on with both hands and rock it like you're trying to rip it from the foundation.

      (Multi-Touch plush Staunch Haunch)

  11. Anonymous Coward

    Dear Steve

    I told you, homeboy

    You can't multi-touch this

    1. Jedit

      Patent time!


      As for patenting "app store", it's like patenting "chip shop". Apple should be told to fuck off ... and that can't be patented either, as French Connection UK were told when they tried to claim sole rights to putting the letters F, C, U and K on clothing in any order as a single word.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        French United Connection Kingdom that for a lark.

    2. Anonymous Coward 15


  12. Hubert Thrunge Jr.

    Common Sense, well a bit of it at last..

    I'm glad to hear that the Jobsians have been kicked out on this one. But App Store? App is an abbreviation of Application - an program that works on a computing device. Store is a shop - place where you buy stuff.

    No case to answer. Now go back under your rock and do something useful with your time.

    This is what happens when you employ lawyers - they make work for themselves.

    Come the revolution brothers, they can be the first ones up against the wall! ;0)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward



      Shortening of the word Apple

      Shortening of the word Application

      The 3 character file name indicator of an application that runs on Apple OS's

      Before Apple, essentially no one generally used the word application to describe programs executing on computers. Few readers here are apparently old enough to remember that application is a new term and Apple is pretty much the founding father of its use. Prior references in general circulation prior to, say when the Lisa was launched (1982?) are welcome.


      A place where things are placed

      A place to buy stuff


      Apple's 100% owned proprietary vending service on the Internet, cunningly and uniquely named by using a contraction with several meanings, each associated with Apple, and the generic word for a place to go shopping.

      No one had an AppStore before Apple.

      I am with Apple on this one. Let the copy cats find their own name for their vending places. Google is worth a trillion dollars, and they cannot hire one literate person to come up with a catchy name for their proprietary vending place for Android software??? Apparently not, and they need to appropriate someone else's name and sponge name recognition.


      1. Greem


        Hey, Mr Anonymous Coward, let's see whether you actually read TFA...

        Google - Android Market.

        Apple - App Store

        Amazon - Appstore

        I think you'll find that Apple's beef is with Amazon, not Google. OK, so the Android Market begins with A, but that's where the titular resemblance ends.

      2. hplasm Silver badge


        You logged in as AC, but left your handle as a sig...

        tut tut.

      3. CD001

        Jawa - they sell androids (though you may have to expect the occasional one with a bad motivator).

      4. Paul M 1

        Re. App

        Truly revisionist stuff this...

        In the early 80's when people asked me *exactly* what I did I always started with an explanation that computers ran both System software and Application software and that I was involved in the former. Of course by "computer" I was referring to the IBM mainframes which had been doing just that for more than 20 years previously.

        So no - Application software or "application" is a very old name. Either *you're* too young to realise this or you're too old and yor memory has failed I'm afraid.

      5. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

        Prior art?

        .app - the three character file prefix used by intermediate compiled 'application' binaries produced by Microsoft Visual FoxPro. Probably has many other uses too.

        Apple may have coined the term 'application' in 1982, I don't know, or really care. What is unarguable is that the term has entered general usage since, and is therefore unenforceable as a trademark, in much the same way that 'hoover' entered the vernacular to mean vacuum cleaner, and the Hoover company were unable to claim its sole use. If Apple wanted to trademark 'app store', they should have done so by trademarking 'application' and its abbreviation in 1982. Of course, if they had done that, nobody would use the term today. It might also interst you to know that the etymology of the word 'application' itself dates to the seventeenth century, from the latin applicare, so in order to trademark this usage, Apple would have had to make a clear case as to how this differs from the accepted meaning that was already in general usage.

        Also, I don't recall Google actually trying to use the term 'app store', IIRC their version is called the 'Android Market', so your argument there is clearly fallacious. If you had taken the time to actually read the article rather than spouting the knee-jerk pro-Apple stance, you would have found that the company in question that is fighting Apple for the use of the term is Amazon, who have their own 'AppStore' for use with Android devices. They were the ones to use the name 'AppStore', not Apple, whose store, if I am not mistaken, is called the 'App Store', note the space, so you seem to have your facts incorrect here too. Nobody actually had an 'AppStore' before Amazon.

        It might be worth noting the fact that Amazon are able to provide a third party 'software shop' for Android, because the Android ecosystem is not closed in the way that Apple's is, so invites innovation.

        Dweeb indeed. When making an argument, it is advisable to start from a position of demonstrable fact, rather than flimsy rhetoric.

      6. Gio Ciampa

        Words fail...

        "App" != "Apple" (unless Orange want to become Ora - and madness that way lies)

        "App store" is so obviously generic - especially as they existed before Apple "invented" them (Nokia made a complete hash of theirs way back when, though I don't recall if apps were ever for sale there)

        "AppStore" (in that exact form) I'll grant you is a term that would work as trademark

      7. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        > they need to appropriate someone else's name and sponge name recognition.


      8. PatientOne

        "Few readers here are apparently old enough to remember that application is a new term"

        Application layer, part of TCP/IP, specifically IP (Internet Protocol), part of the OSI (Open System Interconnectivity). This was created in the 70's by DARPA.

        The application layer is where higher level protocols live and operate, such as FTP, SMTP, HTTP etc.

        Programs are broken down into subsets based on purpose. One subset is application programs, or application software as they're generally known now. This is to differentiate between programs intended to allow a user to perform an activity (applications), utility software for maintenance or general purpose chores, and system software that runs various parts of the computer.

        So, applications are a kind of program, and the term has been in use since the 70's although mostly amongst those working in IT.

        Outside of IT, the term has leaked into use slowly. Perhaps Apple helped this, but they didn't drive it. Many people were getting confused with IT terminology so clung to such general ideas as 'Programs', later replaced by 'Software', and only recently have they started to accept 'Applications'.

        No, Apple are not responsible for this. They are just one of 'the crowd' who have used the term.

        As to Apple having the first AppStore... it's an App store. That's a description of what it sells, not a brand name. So I don't think Apple should get rights to it.

        As for Google... you do know they have the Android Marketplace, don't you?

      9. Grease Monkey

        @AC 11:10 GMT


        Shortening of the word Apple"

        No it isn't. App has been short for application since at least the 1970s. Apple fanbois only decided it might be short for Apple when they started trying to claim they owned the term App Store.

        Seriously have you ever heard anybody refer to Apple the company as as "App"? Did anybody ever claim, for example, to own an "App iMac"? Of course not.

      10. Pat 4

        Who are you calling dweeb??

        The Android "appstore" is called the Android MARKET... no reference to appstore there, nothing to do with Google.

        Apple is trying to fight AMAZON for using appstore... NOTHING to do with Android.

        Learn to read... dweeb.

      11. Field Marshal Von Krakenfart

        Congratulation Dweeb

        "Before Apple, essentially no one generally used the word application to describe programs executing on computers"

        Your education is complete, you may leave Mr Jobs room 101.

      12. This is my handle


        Whether "AppStore" is "distinctive enough" to warrant a TM is a matter for the courts (I'd vote that it may well be, frankly) but....

        "Before Apple, essentially no one generally used the word application to describe programs executing on computers."

        As in "AppDev", " depends on the apps you want to run", "Application Suite", ....????

        "Applications development" (or "AppDev" in the spoken form) was on my CV when most Apple II computers still had monochrome monitors.*

        Hey, maybe I should sue... :-).

        P.S.: * This very fact (that I'm an IT guy) and that I'm a Yank may skew the argument a bit, but it hardly seems to me that Apple invented "App" as the short form of Application, any more than the term "window" was invented in Redmond to describe certain GUI components.

      13. Naughtyhorse

        "Before Apple, essentially no one generally used the word application to describe programs executing on computers."

        get the fuck outta here


        leet abbreviation for....

        application - been around for donkeys years

        i think you need to take more water with it mate

        1. dssf


          Apparently, Anonymous never heard of "applets". Remember back around 1993 when suddenlty "-lets" took on a new craze with applets, formlets, screenlets, and so on. It got ridiculous.

          I wonder how apple would cope with laundromat, washateria...

          (same content)...

          1. Grease Monkey

            Actually you can tell how much Apple has changed in the last couple of decades. Can you imagine what would happen if somebody were to coin the term "applet" today? Jesus H. actually contains an A, two Ps, an L and an E in the very order that Apple have registered as a trademark. Jobs and co. just wouldn't let you get away with that sort of malarky today.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Can't get a patent?

      Register it as a trademark instead.

      That seems to be the way Apple are going.

    3. IT veteran

      Is that...

      Before or after the Marketing dept of the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation?

  13. Dan Wilkie

    Appstore? Really?

    But surely that's entirely descriptive and not distinct, since it's a store where you can buy applications, applications is a long word generally shortened to App, so what else would you call it - the Application Retail Boutique?

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I put it down to coporate economics

    You hire someone in your coporation that is in charge of trademarking, or IPR protection etc etc...then they will try to progress their career by doing what the coporation hired them to do. And the sooner the US Patent Office stop entertaining these f'in retarded stupid as f'k cases the better.

  15. IBM1401

    Ctrl Alt Del

    1. Grease Monkey

      The answer is to change the rules for patents so that no word or phrase in common usage can be used in a trademark.


      Everybody knows that App is short for Application. There is no way you would get a trademark for Application, so likewise you shouldn't get a trademark for App. Since a store is just somewhere you buy and/or sell things then it follows that you shouldn't be able to trademark App Store any more than you could trademark Car Dealership. It matters not a jot whether there was prior art or not - the fact is that App Store describes a place (virtual or otherwise) where you can buy application software and nobody should be allowed to trademark that.

      You'll notice that Hoover the company have never objected to people calling any vacuum cleaner a hoover. There's a simple reason for that as long as people use Hoover as a generic term for a vacuum cleaner then people will associate the brand Hoover with the very activity of using a vacuum cleaner. It follows therefore that when people walk into a store (whoops there it goes again) they won't say "Can I buy a vacuum cleaner" they will say "can I buy a hoover" and as such are more likely to be sold a Hoover product.

      You can't do that backwards. You can't take something that is already a generic term and end up in the position that Hoover did, but that seems to be what Apple are trying to do.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        i see a problem...

        "The answer is to change the rules for patents so that no word or phrase in common usage can be used in a trademark."

        the problem is that trademarks generally come from some sort of descriptive of a product. try describing it without using common words or phrases?

        App store should not be something that can be trademarked, but AppStore should be something reasonable to apply for.

        the problem is when the descriptive describes something that is not unique to one company. many companies have a outlet to supply applications, apps, programs, widgets etc via a retail outlet then the term is to generic so the application for a trademark should be rejected.

        on the flip side, I believe Amazon were just yanking on apples chain when they came up with their app store and named it the same (give or take a space between letters). Apple are no angels and it makes me happy that the USPO flipped them the bird, but surely Amazon could have come up with their own unique name for their app store. Google managed it, Nokia managed it....

  16. Lockwood

    There's a glazier in Portsmouth that has called itself Apple, or Apple Conservatories or something.

    Either way, there's an Apple shop that sells windows.


  17. Dick Emery
    Trollface do have companies like Go Compare and Money Supermarket as trademarks. Just put two words together and there you go.

  18. Reading Your E-mail

    As Steve would say

    "Change your apps name. Not that big of a deal.


    Sent from my iPhone"

    Maybe "Mul-T-Touch"?? except I just got prior art :D

    1. Grease Monkey

      But that is a trade name of a company, which isn't the same thing as trying to trade mark a technology. If you want to compare that to the multi-touch or app store situation imagine one of the companies you trying to prevent other companies from describing their websites as "price comparison" sites.

  19. TeeCee Gold badge

    Next week:

    Apple trademark the term "rounded corners" and sue their own legal team for using it without a license.

  20. kain preacher Silver badge


    I have 250 page book that describes normal sex .

  21. Naughtyhorse


    has made the right decision.

    hang on......

    okay who are you and what have you done with the real USPTO?

  22. Grease Monkey

    I think something is getting missed here.

    Apple used to be a purveyor of fairly innovative IT hardware and software. And they were never huge.

    Then one day they decided to become a purveyor of "lifestyle goods". Design became more important to them than substance. And they have been getting worse and worse in that respect for years.

    That is the company we are dealing with here. Think of them in those terms and their actions make some sort of sense. Either they are not capable of making a better product than anybody else, or they can't be arsed. Whichever it is they would rather litigate than innovate these days.

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