Did Apple Just Acquire Trademark Rights to the 'AirTag' Name?
Looking into the status of any trademark activity surrounding the term, we've come across some curious recent developments that could be signs of Apple acquiring the trademark rights, although we've yet to find a smoking gun concretely linking Apple to the activity.
Citing an international application made in June 2016, a Russian entity known as "Intelligent Systems of Business Control" Ltd in October 2018 filed a trademark application on the AirTag name with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
The description of the goods and services to be covered by the trademark bear a remarkable similarity to Apple's rumored AirTags:
Systems of radio frequency identification comprised of RFID tags, RFID tag readers, and downloadable software for operating RFID readers; radio frequency identification (RFID) labels; RFID tags in form of cards, tags or key rings; RFID markers in the form of RFID signal receivers; RFID tag bracelets; RFID tag disks; RFID tag stickers; RFID tag stamps; RFID printed circuits; RFID tag boles; RFID ear tags; RFID tags in plastic or glass flasks; RFID tags in the form of keys; flexible cases especially adapted for RFID tags with a graphic image; RFID readers; blank smart cards with integrated circuit cards; computer software, recorded, for maintaining a record of issuance and control of RFID tags; all of the above designed to allow users to automatically identify them to obtain keyless access control for interlocking doors, access to various services, such as public transportation, banking, social events and various loyalty programs and not designed to work with data loggers
After an initial denial and some back-and-forth between the applicant's attorney and trademark examiners, the application was approved in August 2019 to be published for opposition, which gives third parties 30 days to object to the proposed trademark.
On August 28, the same day the USPTO officially served notice that the trademark application would be published for opposition on September 17, the attorney on the application was changed to the Moscow office of Baker & McKenzie, a major law firm that Apple has worked with on a number of occasions in several countries.
A month later, on October 1, ownership of the trademark application was officially transferred to GPS Avion LLC, a company that was only just created in July 2019 and appears to have no public presence. GPS Avion was created in Delaware through the Corporation Trust Company, which is a process Apple has used quite a few times to create shell companies in order to hide its identity when dealing with intellectual property issues.
So while there's no evidence directly linking Apple to this AirTag trademark application, the timing of the ownership change and the acquisition by a company seeking to remain anonymous certainly raise suspicions. The use of Baker & McKenzie as the new attorney is also consistent with Apple's past behavior, and at a minimum hints that a major player is behind the acquisition given the firm's prominence.
While we've seen increasing signs of Apple's work on AirTags in recent months, we still don't know when they will debut. An October event would have been a good opportunity to introduce, perhaps as an iOS 13.2 feature, but with that software having been released today and Apple apparently not planning a media event until early next year, it doesn't necessarily look like an AirTags launch is imminent.