Right after it launched the iPad mini, Apple filed a trademark application for the name with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). As Patently Apple noticed earlier today, however, the USPTO will likely refuse Apple’s trademark filing because, the reviewer argues, “the applied-for mark merely describes a feature or characteristic of applicant’s goods.”
The letter was mailed to Apple on January 24, but only made public in the last few days. Apple can still respond to this notice and correct its application, though it’s hard to see how Apple could argue against the USPTO’s argument that ‘mini’ is ‘merely descriptive.’
“The applied-for mark merely describes a feature or characteristic of applicant’s goods.”
The word ‘mini,’ the reviewer argues, just describes that the iPad mini is indeed “a small sized handheld tablet computer” and just describes the mini’s features. It is not, the reviewing attorney says, “a unitary mark with a unique, incongruous, or otherwise nondescriptive meaning in relation to the goods and/or services.” The USPTO would only grant Apple the trademark to the full iPad mini name if the company could show that the word ‘mini’ has now acquired a “distinctiveness.”
In addition, Patently Apple also notes, the reviewer also denied the application for now because Apple should have provided the USPTO with a specimen other than its own product website, even though Apple always uses these for its trademark applications and this was never a reason for a denial before.
The reviewer also believes that there is a “likelihood of confusion” between Apple’s existing iPad trademarks and this new iPad® mini application, which, to be honest, doesn’t make a lot of sense.
Here is the letter the USPTO sent to Apple in January: