Apple's request for trademark on multi-touch denied


The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has formally denied Apple's application for a trademark on multi-touch. The USPTO denied Apple's original request but Apple decided to appeal the decision. The decision was upheld and Apple was denied again. They originally applied for the trademark in January of 2007.

The decision to deny the patent was on the basis that the term "multi-touch" has become somewhat generic. It's now used to describe touchscreen technology in not only Apple products but pretty much every touchscreen smartphone and tablet on the market. Apple did not pass tests that determine "acquired distinctiveness", according to the Board of Appeals.

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.

Even though the first iPhone somewhat started the whole multi-touch market, the term has been used extensively since then and has taken on a much broader base than just Apple products. Do you think Apple should have been given the trademark or do you think the decision was fair?


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Allyson Kazmucha

Senior editor for iMore. I can take apart an iPhone in less than 6 minutes. I also like coffee and Harry Potter more than anyone really should.

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Reader comments

Apple's request for trademark on multi-touch denied


It's very fair, trademarking MULTI-TOUCH is like trademarking breathing. It's a generic form of technology that is used a lot. And plus I'm starting to get sick of the suits and counter-suits, it's ridiculous.

I agree because I'm sick of all the law suit stuff going on. I'm also pretty sure that Apple didn't INVENT the technology, just popularized it. Wasn't Microsoft's Surface out before the iPhone?

Yep, it sure was.
(tm) would be next to every multitouch device w/ credit given to Apple or they couldn't use the description.

This is bullshit! You never heard that term before apple used it! If you painted a picture and I copied it or scanned it into a computer and sold the ones that I copied or printed then should you have the right to get money from those sales?! Of course. But since you only think Basic thoughts that's beyond your level of understanding! Nobody creates or innovates just to have you get money from their ideas while giving them the finger! And Apple is not monopolizing anything! Look at the browser you're using on your Android phone (I'm guessing your a Fandroid! Could be wrong...who cares) that's webkit. Apple tech. Nobody pays them for that! The iPad has the tablet industry locked down because Android sucks! PERIOD! No one Android phone can beat the iPhone because once again Android sucks! That's not Apples fault! As long as Android is Flash's baby bitch then it will have bad battery life! As long as the apps are allowed to look like my son (1st grader) created them then Android will suck! As long as the scrolling is jerking around like a washing machine then Android will suck! They have the most powerful hardware on those Android devices and couldn't go smoothly from one screen to the next or without lag to save the entire Google payroll! The Bionic is looking a lot better than anything before it but it's not even close to an iPod! Definitely no match for an iPhone! Samsung took advantage of the fact that they were building parts for apple and decided to steal instead of building their own unique devices! Imagine what would happen if Apple licensed iOS! Samsung would stop the games and just put their own name on a truck load of iPhones that they stood in line for at the Apple Store! Its all really sad!

There was this move call Minority Report. In this movie, it showed Tom Cruise using what we would assume to be some sort of computer. He was using his hands (plural, multiple) to get the computer to do different things. This movie came out in 2002. iphone wasn't announced until 2007. Someone was thinking of multi-touch/gestures a few years before Apple.

Seriously - Look I like Apple but lets sit down and look at all the operation systems. By far Apple totally ripped Palms WebOS off. Unfortunately HP doesnt have the balls to make better hardware. I have owned Android (which SUCKS btw), Blackberry Torch (which again SUCKS - Currently using this one), and iPhone 3GS (which looked like ASS) I will however be waiting for the iPhone 5 and see how Apple has changed things. Just don't be an Apple whore but look at the bigger picture and what Apple has destroyed. I hold no punches saying that I still think microsoft has a better "real world" operating system" for phones though...

"Even though the first iPhone somewhat started the whole multi-touch market"
Whoa. Do you mean mobile market? Touch was not invented by Apple, not by a long shot.

Fortunately I'm a developer who owns a business and is an owner in multiple businesses. ;-) I'm no trademark expert but I get the core concept and own some.

"started" is also not the barometer for being granted a trademark. for example you can trademark a bands name. The band then would have started using the name. However if the band decides to break up and does not use the name for ten years in any way. Some one else can come and use that name because they have "abandoned" their trademark. The fact that they started the use of the trademarked band name will not keep others from using it. This is not analogous but the point about starting using a term is valid. It is not the only issue or factor.

for the record i was agreeing with you and also just responding to your quoted language about "kinda started multitouch." just trying to add to you're point saying even so it's not the issue. Another reason you were correct to point out that that language is kinda wrong.

Stupid article.. trademark, not patent! And it was dumb of Apple to even think they'd get such a descriptive trademark.

Multitouch was not invented by Apple, either, not by a long shot, as implementations date back at least to 1977.
Apple clearly has a first-rate implementation, and even more clearly had the first wildly successful mainstream product based on the concept, but multitouch was in use well before the iPhone.

And Apple didn't invent multi or single touch screens. That's my point of commenting. That statement is blanket like Apple released the iPhone and multitouch is their baby. Far from it. As others have pointed out, multitouch existed yearrrrrrs ago.

This is about trademark. It doesn't matter who invented multiple touch screens. This is about whether or not Apple should have ownership of the term "multi-touch". They didn't invent the McIntosh apple either. The word "coke" was around long before Coca-Cola trademarked it.
If you believe Apple shouldn't have this right, fine. But, to keep arguing that Apple didn't invent multi-touch is completely irrelevant. You're missing the whole point of trademark.

Not arguing and I get your point but I don't believe Apple deserves it [neither does the governing body either] because they weren't the first to implement it. They spearheaded the mobile industry to move that route, I agree, but that's not enough to tm the word itself.

This is probably ahead of your time but... Michael Jordan tried to get a trademark on the term 'Air' way back when. Michael 'Air' Jordan anyone? He was denied rightfully so due to the near blanket use of that language. Apple doesn't need that either. It's a generic term that nobody needs to own.

@Robert White
Agreed. A totally different reason than simply '"Apple didn't invent it". And it wasn't before my time ;-)

Haven't you made your point already? Is it necessary to comment on every post saying you disagree or agree with it? Haven't you made your point already? I have been reading tipb for some time now and have never said anything, but damn, you are really getting to be annoying. We all get that you have made your thoughts heard. Can't say I disagree with you, but your approach and driving into the ground over and over is perhaps what people find obnoxious about you.

Speak for yourself, not "people". I'm not obnoxious by any means.
You comment police are killing me. I can engage in any discussion without limits. I don't comment on every thread or every comment. Ignore me if you don't want to see me.
BTW, the comment above was one of my first comments on this post.

I hear you on popularizing it for smartphones but still...far from it in the grand scheme. Glad they didn't get it.
Oh and thanks for responding. Authors rarely do around these parts. ;) I appreciate it.

Its funny she has to hold your hand through this post. For someone who owns a business how did you not grasp what she was referring to? Your ass kissing skill work better than your comprehension skill by a long stretch.

Haha. Too funny.
I don't assume. She wrote "whole market" not mobile. I purely asked for clarity because I knew she couldn't have been that naive to think Apple indeed created the whole market.
Y'all are getting overly hostile around here. LOL. Relax. :-)

While I don't think Apple should own the pattent on the term multi-touch, I don't believe it is used or should be used as a generic term for touch-screen. Break it down literally and you will see the difference.
A multiple touch screen (multi-touch) is a touch screen, but a touch screen is not necessarily a multiple touch screen.
A classic example is older touch screens (pre-iphone days) and almost every point of sale system that can only accept one touch at a time.

Apple started that term just like no one was saying app until the iPhone and app store were started. It should've belonged to Apple regardless of the fact that the term is used all over.

Uh...yeah, Citrix admins never used the word "app" before the iPhone, especially in conjunction with the word "published." Lord knows I wasn't saying it in 2005 when I started installing Citrix, and just didn't want to say "Published Application" 800 times to a client.

Ajax brought about "web apps" in '05 or so as well. It is a common word. Even Windows Mobile and Nokia had mobile apps. We simply shortened the word to describe what we were building.

Attention Apple and all others, WE ARE ALL SICK OF THE PATENT WARS. The ones who are really going to suffer are us consumers.

The whole thing with the suits is resulting in lack of innovations because manufacturers try to avoid this sh.t . Apple and Samsung are ruining technology right now!

Haven't you made your point already? Do you really feel you need to comment on every single thread? I have been reading tipb for some time now and have never said anything, but damn, You are really getting to be annoying. We all get that you have made your thoughts heard. Can't say I disagree, but your approach and driving into the ground over and over is perhaps what people find obnoxious about you.