Thursday, January 28, 2010

Mere laughter or prior usage never kept Steve Jobs from using a name he really wanted

All the laughter and all the commentary about Apple's monumental blunder of naming their new tablet computer after a feminine hygiene product are really beside the point. Steve Jobs knows that every laugh is an ad for the iPad. The laughter will die down as people get tired of the joke and move on, but the name will remain and if a little frisson of the transgressive still clings to it, so much the better.

Of course, Apple was not the first major company to use the name iPad. Fujitsu, STMicro, and Siemens all got there first. And since 2008, Coconut Grove Pads has held the rights to the name for padded bras.

But Steve jobs has never let a little matter of prior usage deter him. Like many creative geniuses, he is a creative borrower and visionary adapter. Xerox invented a revolutionary (and expensive) computer workstation with "desktop" icons controlled by a mouse. Jobs turned it into a consumer product and brought computer mice to the millions.

He seems especially good at recognizing a good name. The fact that the Beatles had a little record company they called Apple did not strike him as an obstacle when naming his computer company. If anything, it just seemed to validate his choice. Years of legal wrangling followed, but he held onto the name. When Apple announced the iPhone, it was deja vu all over again. Cisco Systems owned the name and sued. But the phones are still called iPhones.
Apple may face a legal battle with Fujitsu of Japan and STMicroelectronics, Europe's largest chipmaker, over use of the iPad name for its tablet computer. STMicro trademarked the name for its proprietary semiconductor technology in 2000 in Europe and has been using the name since.

Fujitsu has made a handheld computer called the iPad for use by shop assistants since 2002, and has an outstanding trademark application for the name.

There are other owners of iPad trademarks, including Siemens, which has the right to use the term for engines and motors; and Coconut Grove Pads , which since 2008 has the right to the term for padded bras. The situation is reminiscent of 2007, when Apple first announced the iPhone and Cisco Systems owned the rights to the name. Cisco launched a lawsuit against Apple that was settled when the two companies agreed to share the name. Terms of the deal were never disclosed.
The irony here, of course, is that Steve Jobs is a leading advocate of protecting intellectual property -- especially through Digital Rights Management technology. Doubtless he will prevail in any legal and financial wrangling about the iPad name. In doing so, he will underscore an important reality about intellectual property, especially in the areas covered by trademark and copyright law.

Whatever one's legal rights, ownership of a name or other intellectual property is only as lasting as the resources that can be brought to bear to defend it. When there's a conflict, the rights almost always end up with whoever has the deepest pockets and the best lawyers.


George H. said...

Can't help noticing that at the same time Jobs announces a new way to spend money while Gates announces a $10 billion contribution - added to $4.5 billion his foundation gave earlier - to vaccinate the world's poor.

Anonymous said...

It surfs the web AND stops the bleeding.

And you can use the giant QWERTY keyboard to get your period on the iPad!

Is apple making an iPad for light-flow days? Just wondering...

iPad? Really? All I can say is, I'm sticking with Always, bitches.

So I can say That chick is on her iPad and not be called a pig? Thank you Apple.

iPad has changed "the conversation" from how we use tech in context to how we use tech as Kotex.

I haven't heard this many period jokes since I was forced to watch The View last month.

The iPad: protecting your data from embarrassing incidents.

64 gig iPad will forever be known as the heavy flow model.

Did the prototype come with a belt?

Does the Period Tracker app come free?

If I order this, will my boyfriend and I have to worry if it comes late?

If you and your friends all buy one, will they sync up?

Meh. I'll wait until they come out with the iDivaCup

Don't wear white jeans while using an iPad, and especially don't use an iPad in front of your crush. You're a teen magazine embarrassing moment waiting to happen.

someone needs to make a 'mysterious blue liquid stain on white' wallpaper for this.

Later in the year they will be releasing the companion tablet pen, the Ipon.

But what if the cute boys see me shopping for one? What if my dad has to take me??

It's so beautiful when an electronics company finally becomes a woman...

Aunt Flo will be so happy!

Eh, I prefer the CVS brand. A few bucks less but does the same thing...

So will iffy Wifi coverage be called iSpotting?

Can I get a scented iPad for when my data feels not-so-fresh?

Everyone, just try to Stay(free) calm and Poise(d). It's Always nice to see a new product on the market. I Depend on Apple to come up with great ideas. Maybe we're taking this out of Kotex.

Somebody give the iPad a Red Bull, because it ain't no good without wings.

Are you there, God? It's me, Marketing.

iPads are for 8th graders. I'm waiting for the iTampon, because I prefer to do all my interneting from inside my vagina.

Hopefully it will help people deal with the 24-hour news cycle.

8 Reasons Women Should Be Excited For Apple's "iPad"

Apple's iPad Name Not the First Choice for Women. Period.

Anonymous said...

For Apple, iPad Said More Than Intended

SAN FRANCISCO — Apple has generated a lot of chatter with its new iPad tablet. But it may not be quite the conversation it wanted.

Many women are saying the name evokes awkward associations with feminine hygiene products. People from Boston to Ireland are complaining that “iPad,” in their regional brogue, sounds almost indistinguishable from “iPod,” Apple’s music player.

Then there are more serious conflicts. Two other high-tech companies already market products called iPad and are laying claim to the trademark.

In the hours after the iPad announcement on Wednesday, “iTampon” became one of the most popular trending topics on Twitter. Apple’s communication team fielded a wave of queries on the subject but characteristically declined to comment.

“I care about words and their connotations, but you don’t have to be in junior high to make this leap,” said Robin Bernstein, a corporate speech writer on Long Island, who addressed the issue on her Facebook page on Wednesday. “A lot of women when they hear the word ‘pad’ are going to think about feminine hygiene.”

Michael Cronan, a naming consultant in Berkeley, Calif., whose company has helped come up with brands like TiVo and Kindle, said many naming experiments show that women tend to reflexively relate words like “pad” and “flow” to bodily concerns.

He is not sure Apple could have found an alternative that ties in as perfectly to its famous brands. “I think we’re going to get over this fairly quickly and we’ll get on with enjoying the experience.”

But the folks at Fujitsu, the Japanese technology firm, may not be quite so eager to forgive and forget. The company has applied for the iPad trademark in the United States and already sells an iPad — a $2,000 hand-held device that shop clerks use to check inventory.

STMicroelectronics, the Swiss semiconductor company, owns the iPad trademark in Europe and uses it as an acronym for integrated passive and active devices — which sounds less fun than playing games on a tablet. ( A third company, MagTek of Seal Beach, Calif., makes a portable magnetic card reader of the same name. )

These kinds of naming conflicts have not stopped Apple before. In 2007, on the eve of the introduction of the iPhone, the technology giant Cisco Systems pointed out that it already sold an Internet handset called the iPhone. Steven P. Jobs, Apple’s chief executive, led the negotiation for the name, peppering Cisco executives with calls at all hours, and telling them he was prepared to claim that Cisco was underutilizing the trademark.

Mr. Jobs finally persuaded Cisco to surrender the trademark with a vague promise to market their products jointly — a partnership that never materialized.

“He’s a very tough businessman and tough negotiator,” said Charles Giancarlo, a former Cisco executive who dealt directly with Mr. Jobs on the issue. “I feel sorry for the poor guy at Fujitsu who is going to be negotiating with Steve directly.”