The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has refused Apple’s application for an “iPad mini” trademark. In a letter mailed to Apple last January 24th, which USPTO made public just a few days ago, the application is rejected because “the applied-for mark merely describes a feature or characteristic of applicant’s goods.”
The patent office explains further that the “mini” in iPad mini just describes that the device is indeed “a small sized handheld tablet computer.” Apple has failed to explain how “mini” is “a unitary mark with a unique, incongruous, or otherwise nondescriptive meaning in relation to the goods and/ or services.”
The USPTO adds that Apple, like any other trademark applicant, “may not claim exclusive rights to terms or designs that others may need to use to describe or show their goods or services in the marketplace.” This means that if the office grants Apple the trademark for iPad mini, the Cupertino company would have had the right to sue any other businesses that adds the word “mini” after its mini-sized product or service.
If Apple wants the trademark so badly, it could either respond to the notice and argue how “mini” is distinct rather than descriptive or just add this disclaimer wherever needed: “No claim is made to the exclusive right to use ‘MINI’ apart from the mark as shown.”
The reviewer also denied the application because Apple should have submitted to the USPTO a specimen of the iPad mini instead of its own product website. Although Apple always uses these for its trademark applications, the reviewer considered product websites as advertising material, which is an unacceptable specimen based on certain rules.
While Apple could appeal the decision, it would be hard for them to defend how “mini” in iPad mini is not just a small-sized version of the iPad.
Source: USPTO, via TechCrunch