The Battle of the iPads?

Posted on March 3, 2010

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On January 27 of this year, the tech and Internet world was abuzz when Steve Jobs announced the latest in Apple’s long line of innovative and cutting-edge communication products, the iPad. Retailing for the relatively low price of $499, the iPad is supposed to revolutionize the way users browse the web, take photos and watch movies – not to mention the thousands of apps sure to dazzle novices and tech geeks alike.

The only problem? Apple is not the only company with an iPad product. Fijutsu of Japan’s iPad is a handheld computer used by shops and retailers since 2002.  Fujitsu applied for the “iPad” mark, specifically covering handheld devices used in retail. The application stalled, however, because Mag-Tek had already registered IPAD for a handheld number-encrypting device.  In April of 2009 Fujitsu’s application was listed as “abandoned”, but the company revived its application in June of 2009. On September 1, 2009, the Fujitsu iPad application was published for opposition and is currently still outstanding.  At that time, Apple filed its own “iPad” trademark application.  Currently Mag-Tek is selling the IPAD under a valid, registered trademark, Fujitsu is selling an iPad with a pending, but allowed, trademark application and Apple has begun to sell the iPad without a trademark registration.

Apple is notorious for defending it’s brand, image and trademark (link to previous blog), but the pre-existing claim of Fijutsu and well as the numerous U.S. and international filings on behalf of names, patents and trademarks from both companies make this a far more tangled case. According to The New York Times, “Apple has until Feb. 28 to say whether it will oppose Fujitsu’s claims to the iPad name.”

Cisco Systems and Apple negotiated a similar matter when the iPhone was introduced and eventually settled, but as of January 28, 2010, Apple and Fujitsu had yet to talk about their naming conflict. According to Financial Times, “Fujitsu’s trademark lawyer, Edward Pennington of Hanify & King, told Bloomberg: “They probably need to talk to us and we haven’t had any direct communications with Apple.” He maintains that Apple’s legal position is “awkward.’”

This issue will likely settle as the Cisco case did, but I will keep you posted as things progress.

Elizabeth Ritter, Goodrich Law Firm

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