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Apple Denied Trademark for Multi-Touch

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 the term Multi-Touch. Apple originally applied for the trademark on January 9, 2007, the day the iPhone was introduced.

A lawyer for the USPTO denied Apple's initial trademark application and the company appealed to the Appeal Board. The board upheld the initial refusal to grant the trademark.

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.
Thus, from the foregoing, we find that “multi-touch” not only identifies the technology, but also describes how a user of the goods operates the device. Based on the evidence discussed above, as well as other evidence in the record, we agree with the examining attorney that MULTI-TOUCH indeed is highly descriptive of a feature of the identified goods. We now consider whether applicant has submitted sufficient evidence to establish acquired distinctiveness of this highly descriptive term.
There is a list of items that can determine if a mark has "acquired distinctiveness", including sales success, length and exclusivity of use, and advertising expenditures. The board ruled that Apple has not met the burden to be granted a trademark on multi-touch.

We've posted the full decision to Scribd.

Top Rated Comments

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94 months ago
*LTD* is going to have a heart attack.
Rating: 58 Votes
94 months ago
The right decision. You shouldn't be able to trademark the name of a commonly used technology in your field.
Rating: 40 Votes
94 months ago
I'm glad this trademark got denied. Its too common of a word for it to be trademarked.
Rating: 24 Votes
94 months ago

While i agree it shouldn't be a trademark of Apple, refusing it because Android phones and tablets are using the term is borderline stupid ... there was no Android or any other consumer device using multi-touch back in Jan 2007.

There actually were devices that used multitouch long before 2007. Also, apple did NOT invent multitouch.

I've noticed an ongoing trend in the mac community and its that apple is responsible for all inventions and they are always the first to do something.... factually not the case.
Rating: 23 Votes
94 months ago
I had never heard of the term used before this, with the exception of it being used in Apple laptops. It wasn't in wide-use before the iPhone.
Rating: 15 Votes
94 months ago
Reading through this thread makes me question the literacy level of some of you.

Let's say I make skipping super popular. Everyone does it and associates me with it. Everyone starts skipping everywhere. Would that give me the right to trademark the word, even though it existed and was it in use before?

Just the word mind you, not the process.
Rating: 11 Votes
94 months ago

I'm glad this trademark got denied. Its too common of a word for it to be trademarked.

still, the fact that Apple went as far as to try to trademark 'multitouch' is pathetic.

after innovation, Apple's second priority is clearly lawyers, the best lawyers.
Rating: 11 Votes
94 months ago

That may very well be, but what commercial product was actually using it en masse before Apple? We're talking about just a trademark here. Rights to a name.

In this context, Apple's attempt to trademark it is perfectly understandable, as bold (and after a certain point, as doomed) as it was.

You, and most here, have misunderstood the reasoning behind the denial. It is not that other products are using the term "multi-touch" as a description of their product, it is that "multi-touch" is a generic descriptive term regarding how a myriad of devices - yes, many since the iPhone, but also yes, many before - are interacted with by their user.

This isn't about whether or not Apple made it popular or not, it's that the term is a mainstream description more than a named proprietary technology. Saying that Apple should be able to trademark it is akin to saying that Toyota can trademark the term "driving" because they are one of the most successful automakers right now.

Thus, from the foregoing, we find that “multi-touch” not only identifies the technology, but also describes how a user of the goods operates the device.

Rating: 11 Votes
94 months ago

Was anyone using multitouch on smartphones before Apple? IIRC they all required stylus until the iPhone came out!

Not on a smartphone (they were surface like devices). It wasn't invented by Apple either.
Rating: 10 Votes
94 months ago

Really dude? :rolleyes:

99% sure s/he won't have a heart attack. Not sure why you'd question a joke though.
Rating: 9 Votes

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