Apple files for 'iWatch' trademark in Japan

Tech firms are eyeing up the possibilities of wearable technology, and Apple has taken one of the first definitive steps in branding.

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Apple has filed with the Japan Patent Office to secure a trademark for the "iWatch."

As reported by Bloomberg, the iPad and iPhone maker's June 3 filing with the JPO was made public last week. The filing is categorized to protect products products "including a handheld computer or watch device."

The application follows reports that Apple has employed over 100 product engineers and designers to develop a watch that would run on the iOS system and would be able to complete some of the same tasks that the iPhone and iPad are capable of.

In March, Samsung's mobile tech vice president Lee Young Hee confirmed that the smartphone maker was in the process of developing its own smart watch . In an interview, Hee commented:

"We've been preparing the watch product for so long. We are working very hard to get ready for it. We are preparing products for the future, and the watch is definitely one of them."

Microsoft may also be toying with the idea, according to recent patent filings.

If Apple manages to launch a smart watch product before larger rivals including Samsung, the move could help the Cupertino., Calif-based company rejuvenate the balance sheet. In recent times, Apple's share price has plummeted, leading the company to launch a $100 billion capital return program to appease shareholders, borrowing $17 billion in the process via a bond sale.

Citigroup analyst Oliver Chen believes that the global watch market is worth $60 billion a year. If Apple secured ten percent of this market, launching an "iWatch" would be a "$6 billion opportunity for Apple," with profit margins close to $3.6 billion.

Interest in wearable computing has spiked in recent months. After releasing prototypes to developers, Google's Glass project -- headsets that can run applications through a small screen close to the corner of one eye -- has hit the media, becoming a catalyst for discussion over how wearable computing fits in to modern society, and how privacy can be maintained.

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