Apple May Be Using 'Brightflash' Shell Company to Pursue iWatch Trademark Protection

Following our report yesterday about Apple expanding its trademark protection to use the "Apple" name in association with jewelry and watches in a number of countries, MacRumors has discovered that Apple may be quietly continuing to pursue trademarks on the "iWatch" name itself.

Evidence of Apple's interest in the iWatch name surfaced last June as the company began registering for trademarks on the "iWatch" name in a number of countries. Several major countries including the United States were not included in that list, and it was unclear whether Apple was holding off due to conflicts with pending trademark applications in those countries or if there were other issues in play.

At the time, reports mentioned several of those conflicting applications in the United States, but we now believe that one of those applications may in fact be Apple itself operating in disguise using a shell company by the name of Brightflash USA LLC. While MacRumors has yet to discover a smoking gun linking Apple to Brightflash, there are several pieces of circumstantial evidence pointing in that direction, thereby suggesting that Apple is indeed continuing to quietly lay the groundwork for an iWatch launch.

- Timing: Brightflash filed its iWatch trademark application in the United States on June 5, 2013, alongside the surge of applications by Apple in other countries during the span of June 3-5. While it is possible that the timing is a coincidence or the result of a separate company moving extremely quickly to apply for the mark after news of Apple's applications in other countries started breaking on June 5, this would appear to be unlikely.

- Concealed company structure and location: Brightflash is registered in Delaware, a common location for incorporation due to the state's business-friendly laws. According to state records, Brightflash was formed on June 27, 2012 and the company uses the Corporation Trust Center in Wilmington, Delaware as its address. That building serves as the home of hundreds of thousands of companies, streamlining the process of locating in Delaware and providing a level of anonymity for companies registering using the firm's services.

brightflash_corp_listing
- Few leads on company representatives: Efforts to determine Brightflash's executives and representatives have proven difficult as well, with the initial trademark application using attorney John Sullivan at the same Corporation Trust Center address. Last month, Brightflash filed a change of attorney form with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office listing a David Harris also at that address, with that document signed by a manager "J. Yori". It is possible that this is Joan Yori, an executive with Stewart Management Company, a firm offering services for establishing so-called special purpose entities.

SMC offers a full service domicile management package including office space, employees, officers and directors, accounting services, and coordinates services with recommended local legal and banking providers.

- Legal links from Ecuador: As we noted yesterday, Apple filed for a trademark on the "Apple" name in Class 14 (jewelry and watches) in Ecuador last December, and the attorney who facilitated that application was Alejandro Ponce Martinez, a principal attorney with Quevedo & Ponce in Quito. Ponce has helped Apple with a number of other trademark applications, including recent filings for iOS 7 icons and iPad Air, and just weeks prior to the Apple jewelry filing he helped Brightflash file its application (PDF: page 164) for the "iWatch" mark.

In an initial response to Brightflash's U.S. application for the iWatch trademark, the examiner cited several prior pending applications from other firms that would potentially be confusing with Brightflash's desired usage. As a result, Brightflash late last month filed its own response requesting that its application be put on hold until the other pending applications were either granted or abandoned. Last week, the patent examiner issued a letter granting the suspension of Brightflash's application for the time being. If Brightflash is indeed Apple, the company would very likely make an effort to acquire the rights to any of the other trademarks if they are granted.

Brightflash continues to file trademark applications in other countries, including Australia and Macau. And just last month, United Kingdom and Denmark were added to the list, indicating that the firm is indeed still interested in protecting the iWatch name. As noted by French site Consomac [Google Translate], Brightflash is pursuing registration of the iWatch name in at least four dozen countries around the world.

Brightflash is also attempting to trademark the "Brightflash" name itself in a number of countries, and it is unclear whether this is simply part of the process of pursuing the iWatch mark or if there is an additional feature or product that could use the Brightflash name.

In the background of any efforts by Brightflash or Apple to secure a U.S. trademark on the iWatch name is a years-long battle between Swiss watchmaker Swatch and New York firm M.Z. Berger. MZB applied for a U.S. trademark on the iWatch name back in July 2007 and the application was nearly approved before Swatch opposed the mark on two fronts: potential confusion with the Swatch brand and a lack of intent by MZB to actually use the iWatch name.

An appeals board has ruled that MZB should not be awarded the trademark on the basis that there is no evidence of MZB's intent to use the iWatch name at the time of filing, although Swatch's claim of potential confusion was not found to be warranted. Both parties appealed the respective decisions against them late last year, and the case remains unresolved.

Apple's potential use of Brightflash as a shell company to hide its efforts to protect intellectual property would certainly not be the first time the company has engaged in such tactics. Last November, the company created an entity by the name of CarPlay Enterprises to file a U.S. trademark application on the term "CarPlay", which last month became the new name for the previously named iOS in the Car feature in iOS 7.1.

In an earlier example leading up to the launch of the iPad, Apple used a shell company by the name of Slate Computing to protect "iSlate" and "MagicSlate" while using a separate firm under the name IP Application Development to secure the "iPad" name.

Related Roundup: Apple Watch Series 8
Buyer's Guide: Apple Watch (Buy Now)
Related Forum: Apple Watch

Top Rated Comments

Mad Mac Maniac Avatar
110 months ago
Is Macrumors doing investigative reporting now?? Interesting...
Score: 14 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Above The Gods Avatar
110 months ago
Yes, we. you know, the public, the ones in charge of the political process and therefore all laws and statutes enacted?

When did you and I become in charge of anything? I don't remember giving myself a tax hike.
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Schurkasol Avatar
110 months ago
iBand?

I still don't see Apple calling its wearable device "iWatch". Because this name would indicate that the device was primary a watch-like device with some extra smart features (like the gear). I think there's a better chance it's going to be called "iBand". Apple applying for the trademark "iWatch" seems like the same misleading strategy as "iSlate" back in 2009/2010.

Coincidentally the Trademark "iBand" also belongs currently to what seems like a shell company 'Blue Jewels Inc' and was applied by Mark D. Bowen, a lawyer specialising on shell companies & patent applications.

The description in the trademark application reads as follows: "Personal short-range wireless enabled notification device for providing a user with notification of incoming communications received by a wireless enabled smart device"

Trademark: http://trademarks.justia.com/owners/blue-jewels-inc-2708882/
Mark D. Bowen's company: http://www.mhdpatents.com

:cool:
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Above The Gods Avatar
110 months ago
We probably shouldn't allow for "secretive" companies at all.

"We"?
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)
IJ Reilly Avatar
110 months ago

It's not like that. Jobs repeated the 3 devices in 1 mantra like crazy during the unveil "A phone, an internet device, a media player" or something like that. The messagge was that iPhone was smarter than the other smartphones not "just a phone".

How soon we forget. A "smart phone" at that point wasn't very smart. No apps, for one thing. All of that came later. Not that it wasn't part of the plan, but initially Apple was entering what was already at that time an established product category, the primary function of which was entirely relevant. The objective was to do the phone better than it had been done. The problem with this new product being called a "watch" is that hardly anyone is looking for a better watch. That's a much tougher sale. In terms of positioning, Apple would be far better off creating a new category of wearable tech that they can define and doesn't carry any historical baggage.
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)
IJ Reilly Avatar
110 months ago
shocked, disappointed..... It's just a name....:confused:

Of course it isn't "just a name." These things matter. They communicate what the product is about.

----------

Didn't they call it's mobile computer the iPhone? Has this name indicated to people that the device was primary phone-like with some extra smart features?

When it was released, the iPhone was really just a phone, and it was designed to go head-to-head with a whole lot of other phones. The important distinction being that a watch is ancient, single-purpose tech, that a lot of people see as obsolete. Apple calling their a new wearable tech product a watch would not position it very well.
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Popular Stories

USB C Over Lightning Feature

EU Passes Law to Switch iPhone to USB-C by End of 2024

Tuesday October 4, 2022 3:30 am PDT by
The European Parliament today voted overwhelmingly in favor of enforcing USB-C as a common charging port across a wide range of consumer electronic devices, including the iPhone and AirPods, by the end of 2024. The proposal, known as a directive, forces all consumer electronics manufacturers who sell their products in Europe to ensure that a wide range of devices feature a USB-C port. This...
General iOS 16 Feature Yellow

10 New iOS 16 Features Coming Later This Year

Monday October 3, 2022 2:41 pm PDT by
iOS 16 was released to the public three weeks ago with a customizable Lock Screen, the ability to edit iMessages, improvements to Focus modes, and much more. And in the coming months, iPhone and iPad users have even more new features to look forward to. We've rounded up 10 new features coming to the iPhone and iPad later this year, according to Apple. Many of the features are part of iOS...
magsafe charger orange

Apple Releases New MagSafe Charger Firmware

Tuesday October 4, 2022 12:09 pm PDT by
Apple today released updated firmware for the MagSafe Charger that is designed to work with the iPhone 12 and later and the AirPods Pro 2. The new firmware is version 10M1821, up from the prior 10M229 firmware. Note that in the Settings app, you'll see a different version number than the firmware number, with the update displayed as version 255.0.0.0 (the prior firmware was 247.0.0.0). The...
maxresdefault

Video: AirPods Pro 2 vs. Bose QuietComfort II

Monday October 3, 2022 12:50 pm PDT by
Apple on September 23 officially launched the second-generation version of the AirPods Pro, introducing updated Active Noise Cancellation, Adaptive Transparency, improved sound, and more. Right around the same time, Bose introduced new QuietComfort II earbuds with many similar features, so we thought we'd compare the two to see which has the edge. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for ...
iOS 16

Apple Preparing iOS 16.0.3 With More Bug Fixes Following iPhone 14 Launch

Monday October 3, 2022 7:53 am PDT by
iOS 16.0.2 was released last month with several bug fixes for iPhone 14 issues, excessive copy and paste permission prompts, and more. Now, evidence suggests that Apple is planning to release iOS 16.0.3 with additional bug fixes. Evidence of an upcoming iOS 16.0.3 software update has shown up in MacRumors analytics logs, which have been a reliable indicator in the past. There are several...
ipad pro m1 feature

Gurman: Apple Event This October Remains Unlikely, No Touch ID for iPhone 15

Sunday October 2, 2022 6:41 am PDT by
Apple is developing new iPad Pro, Mac, and Apple TV models, and at least some of these products will be released in October, according to Bloomberg's Mark Gurman. However, Gurman continues to believe that Apple is unlikely to hold an event this month. In the latest edition of his Power On newsletter, Gurman said "the big iPhone 14 unveiling last month was probably it for Apple in 2022 in...
General YouTube Feature 1

You May Soon Need to Be a YouTube Premium Subscriber to Watch 4K Videos

Monday October 3, 2022 4:29 am PDT by
YouTube may make watching videos in 4K quality on the platform exclusive to only YouTube Premium subscribers, according to screenshots posted by users on Twitter and Reddit. On Reddit (1,2) and Twitter, some users have started to recently notice that on iOS, and presumably across other platforms also, YouTube is now saying that in order to watch videos in 4K, the user must be a paying...
Apple SIM Card

Apple SIM No Longer Available for Activating New Cellular Data Plans on iPads

Sunday October 2, 2022 8:04 am PDT by
As of October 1, Apple SIM is no longer available for activating new cellular data plans on supported iPad models, according to an Apple support document. Introduced in 2014, the Apple SIM was designed to allow iPad users to activate cellular data plans from multiple carriers around the world. Initially, the Apple SIM was a physical nano-SIM card, but it was embedded inside later iPad Pro...