Tablet computer's name could lead to trademark issues for Apple

By Susan Decker

Apple's plan to call its new tablet computer the iPad may run into trademark problems because of an older application for the name by Japanese computer maker Fujitsu.

Fujitsu has sought a trademark on the name since 2003 for a hand-held computing device, according to the website of the US Patent and Trademark Office.

Apple, which said in filings with the agency that it might oppose Fujitsu's right to the name, has until February 28 to file an objection. "They probably need to talk to us and we haven't had any direct communications with Apple," Fujitsu lawyer Edward Pennington of Hanify & King in Washington said yesterday in a phone interview.

"Apple filed extensions to oppose it and now it makes sense. Now we can see why they did."

A lawyer using the address of a Delaware firm that acts as registered agents for other companies filed an application for the iPad name on January 16. According to the application, the trademark would cover a range of goods, including computers, paper, toys and telecommunications. The trademark was first sought in Trinidad and Tobago. Apple used a similar type of Delaware company to file a trademark application on the word iPhone in the US and first filed in Trinidad and Tobago.

Susan Lundgren, a spokeswoman for Apple, didn't immediately return an email seeking comment.

Three years ago, Cupertino, California-based Apple had to negotiate a settlement with Cisco Systems to clear its rights to use the iPhone name for mobile phones. Fujitsu uses the name for machines that are used in the self-service checkout stands at grocery stores. The application had been delayed while the US officials considered another iPad trademark, one for keypads used to enter and encrypt personal identification numbers.

Registered trademarks for the name iPad also have been granted for automotive engines and bras. The purpose of a trademark is to prevent confusion over the origin of the product, so Apple hasn't filed any opposition to those.

- BLOOMBERG

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