In the wake of today’s lavish presentation of the forthcoming Apple Watch, the burning question on everyone’s mind was undoubtedly, “What kind of U.S. trademark protection has Apple sought and/or secured for this Apple Watch thingamabob?” Well, six months ago, this blog featured a post about the just announced Apple Watch, and the legal strategy that enabled Apple to secure trademark rights to the product name six months in advance of the announcement, while effectively keeping the name a secret. This author predicted that Apple would file a U.S. trademark application for APPLE WATCH on or just before September 11, 2014, claiming priority to the earlier-filed APPLE WATCH application in Trinidad and Tobago. As predicted, the company filed for U.S. protection for the APPLE WATCH mark on September 9, 2014, the date of the product’s unveiling. The next day, however, Apple filed three additional U.S. applications for a design mark comprising the Apple logo next to the word WATCH. The three additional applications did not claim priority to the Trinidad and Tobago application, but rather claimed priority to an application in Jamaica that was stealthily filed on July 24, 2014, and was essentially unreported by the media.
In choosing to file the APPLE WATCH word mark in Trinidad and Tobago and the APPLE WATCH design mark in Jamaica, Apple was able to avoid putting all of its eggs in one IP office basket, and reduce the risk that the product name would be prematurely discovered—even if one country’s applications were found, the other country’s applications might remain hidden, since the finder could reasonably assume that the company would file all of the potential product marks in the same obscure IP office. Moreover, if one of the two marks was discovered, a search for that mark would not directly lead one to the other mark (e.g., the word APPLE does not appear in the design mark). When it comes to trademark protection for its future products, Apple’s strategy appears to be, file early and often. See the five U.S. applications here, here, here, here, and here; see the earlier post here; and see the product itself here.