Trademark Filings Seemingly Confirm Apple's Work on Upcoming 'AirPods'

earpods_tableWith it looking more and more like Apple is going to remove the headphone jack on the iPhone 7, we've seen considerable speculation and discussion about the transition to either wired Lightning headphones or Bluetooth options. Looking at the wireless possibilities, the first iPhone 7 headphone jack rumors immediately reminded us of an "AirPods" trademark filing we discovered last October that seemed likely to be linked to Apple, although conclusive proof could not be found at the time.

That AirPods trademark application was filed by a previously unknown company by the name of Entertainment in Flight LLC, which carried many of the hallmarks of being a shell company operated by Apple for the purposes of hiding its true identity. Apple has used such companies on many previous occasions, including for "iPad" and "CarPlay" that were ultimately used in product names and others such as "iWatch" that ended up scrapped in favor of other names.

As the AirPods trademark has continued through the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office review process, additional documents have been filed that we believe confirm Apple is behind the filing while providing evidence Apple continues to have interest in protecting the name.

Just this week, the applicant amended its description of the goods to be covered under the AirPods trademark, responding to a January request from the trademark examiner to clarify some of the overly broad terms used in the original description. This week's filing was signed by Jonathan Brown, a "manager" for Entertainment in Flight, and it's the first time we've seen a name associated with the trademark application other than outside attorneys handling the case.

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Jonathan Brown's signature on AirPods trademark case filing

As a matter of fact, Apple employs an attorney by the name of Jonathan Brown in the role of "Senior Standards Counsel." While Brown describes his role as primarily dealing with technical standards organizations and open source software initiatives, he is involved with intellectual property matters and in prior positions at chipmaker Rambus he handled trademark and patent maintenance and litigation.

Given that Jonathan Brown is a fairly common name, we dug a little further to try to determine whether the manager at Entertainment in Flight and the attorney at Apple and Rambus are indeed the same person, and we came across a court filing from a 2010 civil case involving Rambus that includes a pair of Brown's signatures. While there is some variation among those two signatures and the one on the AirPods trademark document, they have enough in common that we believe these Jonathan Browns are the same person and thus Apple is behind the AirPods trademark application.

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Jonathan Brown's signatures on 2010 Rambus court filing

This week's amendment came one day prior to the six-month deadline for responding to the trademark office's request for clarification, indicating Apple remains interested in protecting the name but suggesting it is interested in stretching out the review process as long as possible with no product yet released.

Trademark protection ultimately requires that a "Statement of Use" be filed to prove the name is actually being used, and lengthening the review process gives the applicant additional time as it continues working on its product. By regulation, a Statement of Use must be filed within six months of the trademark being allowed, although five six-month extensions are permitted.

If Apple is indeed working on an AirPods product, it is likely a set of wireless earphones that would be a natural accessory for the iPhone, Apple Watch, and other devices. Given the cost of wireless earphones, it is likely the iPhone 7 would instead ship with Lightning-enabled wired earphones, with wireless AirPods sold separately. Apple was reportedly looking to launch wireless earphones this fall alongside the iPhone 7, but it's possible that timeline could be pushed back if the accessory is not ready for market.

Related Roundup: AirPods
Buyer's Guide: AirPods (Don't Buy)

Top Rated Comments

farewelwilliams Avatar
60 months ago
Plot twist: it's a thinner iPod.
Score: 21 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Richardgm Avatar
60 months ago
Not gonna lie, that's a clever name.
Score: 18 Votes (Like | Disagree)
garirry Avatar
60 months ago
If it's wireless earbuds that seamlessly connect to your iPhones, then it's my job to yell "**** yeah!".
If it's the same EarPods but with a Lightning connection, then it's my job to yell "**** that".
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)
masterhiggins Avatar
60 months ago
Omg who cares? Bring out the new skylake MacBook Pros already, damnit!
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Mac4Brains Avatar
60 months ago
As a I.T. teck, I often tell people to look at how long an item stays on their desk. The longer it is there the more money you can safely drop into any item. Since the 3.5mm headphone jack is the universal standard for speakers, don’t be to shy to drop good money on to a decent set of speakers and to avoid anything that does not use the 3.5mm plug. Kinda like when I was dumb enuf to get the iSub that used a USB port when I got my G4 iMac. Great sub-woofer but when I got my next iMac (an Intel based iMac) it then refused to work so it became a worthless paperweight. This whole debacle is mostly why the iSub is now dead and no longer available form Apple. The $300 speakers I got to replace that bad decision back in 2006, is still the speakers I am still using today, ten years and three iMacs later.

This will also force the many people that use the 3.5mm connection, that was built in to their cars, to stop using their iPhones for music. As for the idea of using Lighting connectors for headphones, how long until Apple decides to change the connector like they did with the 30 pin connector. This also made my desktop docking station and current shelve stereo connector worthless and that change is why you don’t see non-Apple stereos offering connectors like you did prior to 2011 and the few car makers that offered the 30 pin connector gave up and placed a 3.5mm port in their cars instead.

In the past Apple has done some stupid things, like discontinuing the Newton or the lack of USB ports on the MacBook. I see the removal of the 3.5mm headphone jack to be the next big disaster for Apple. Watch closely as the sales of the iPhone7 drops off sharply after a few months when reviews start to show up, as people switch to another smart phone to keep using the overpriced headphones they got several iPhone models ago or to use an iPhone in their cars. Then in a mad scramble, Apple will bring it back to rescue the line with the iPhone7S or 8, but never fully recover from this super blunder.

If Apple does this I will make the switch to a Galaxy phone to avoid being forced to use $75 and up headphones, which will only work in the iPhone7. Even though I am using a $50 Non-Apple set now that blows away the current crappy ones that apple is currently supplying its costumers at $30. Even at $10 I can get better models than the ones Apple supplies, just minus the on-wire-remote. However I can also use my current Non-Apple headphones on my current iMac, MacBookPro, iPad, (or any other device for that matter) and while still using my iPhone for music in my car.
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Rufuss Sewell Avatar
60 months ago
I never thought I would ditch Apple. I've had 2 of every iPhone. Several MBPs. I bought a G5 in 2005. Several iPods, iPads, Apple TVs, TB Display... everything.

But a phone without a DAC and analog output is worthless.
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)

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