Podcast Trademark Controversy [Updated]

A recent apparent cease-and-desist letter sent to Podcast Ready (makers of a software product called myPodder) by Apple has lit a firestorm in the blogosphere and online community. According to Eliot Van Buskirk at Wired.com, the cease-and-desist letter claimed that both the company's name and software infringed on Apple's trademarks.

While Apple's attempts at safeguarding its trademarks is nothing new, the move is striking fears that Apple is trying to take over the term "podcast". ZDNet's Russel Shaw posts a good summary of recent trademark attempts by Apple to register such terms as iPodcast.

Indeed, MacRumors' own research has found evidence that Apple has attempted to further the reach of its existing trademarks. The following describes a change Apple proposed to its existing iPod trademark (change applied for 06/18/05, final denial 05/22/06):

A full line of electronic and mechanical accessories for portable and handheld digital electronic devices for recording, organizing, transmitting, manipulating, and reviewing text, data, audio and video files; electronic docking stations; stands specially designed for holding portable and handheld digital electronic devices; battery chargers; battery packs; electrical connectors, wires, cables, and adaptors; wired and wireless remote controls for portable and handheld digital electronic devices; headphones and earphones; stereo amplifier and speaker base stations; automobile stereo adapters; audio recorders; radio receivers; radio transmitters; image scanners; video viewers, namely video monitors for portable and handheld digital electronic devices; and, electronic memory card readers; a full line of computer software for portable and handheld digital electronic devices for recording, organizing, transmitting, manipulating, and reviewing text, data, audio, image, and video files; computer application software for recording and organizing calendars and schedules, to-do lists, and contact information; computer game software; and, computer software for clock and alarm clock functionality; carrying cases, sacks, and bags, all for use with portable and handheld digital electronic devices for recording, organizing, transmitting, manipulating, and reviewing text, data, audio, image, and video files.

Currently, Apple's existing iPod trademark is much more restrictive.

Portable and handheld digital electronic devices for recording, organizing, transmitting, manipulating, and reviewing text, data, and audio files; computer software for use in organizing, transmitting, manipulating, and reviewing text, data, and audio files on portable and handheld digital electronic devices

In addition, Apple has an open trademark application for "pod":

portable and handheld digital electronic devices for recording, organizing, transmitting, manipulating, and reviewing audio files, and peripherals for use therewith; computer software for use in organizing, transmitting, manipulating, and reviewing audio files on portable and handheld digital electronic devices

Currently, the "pod" trademark appears to be encountering some resistance, as a request for an extension of time to file an opposition to the trademark has been filed with the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board. It was not immediately clear who is asking for the extension.

Of additional possible relevance, it appears a few enterprising individuals have already attempted to trademark the term "podcast". In both cases found by MacRumors, non-final action has been mailed by the U.S. trademark office, which either indicates a initial refusal or a request for additional information. Currently, no corporation or individual appears to hold a trademark (in the U.S.) to the term "podcast."

Update: The original cease-and-desist letter can be found here. In it, Apple's legal team cites its "iPod" and "Pod" trademarks, and asks Podcast Ready to stop using the term "mypodder" because of confusion it may cause with the iPod and Pod trademarks. Furthermore, Apple explicitly states that it is not asking Podcast Ready to stop using its company name, as the "services description indicates the mark will be used for podcasting-related services."

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