Apple has failed in an attempt to register 'multitouch' as a trademark, due to the term being too generic.
The company had applied for the trademark on the day the first iPhone was released in 2007, according to MacRumors. However, at the end of last week the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) turned down the application, saying Apple had not supplied enough evidence to prove that people associated the term 'multitouch' primarily with the iPhone.
Multitouch technology allows users to scroll and manipulate what is on a touchscreen, using multiple fingers at once to perform actions that are different to those only possible with one finger.
Many other manufacturers offer multitouch functionality on their smartphones, PCs and other devices. Apple has used its multitouch patents against rivals such as HTC, but has not been able to defend what it sees as its ownership of the term itself.
"We find that 'multitouch' not only identifies the technology, but also describes how a user of the goods operates the device," the USPTO said, backing up an examining attorney who had already said Apple should not get the trademark. "Based on the evidence […] we agree with the examining attorney that 'multitouch' indeed is highly descriptive of a feature of the identified goods."
The USPTO went on to note the evidence Apple had provided, which largely consisted of proof of how well the iPhone has sold.
"This evidence establishes that the iPhone is a very successful product that has generated much interest among potential purchasers," the USPTO said. "However, as the examining attorney correctly pointed out, the applied-for mark is not 'iPhone', it is 'multitouch'. Thus, applicant’s evidence pertaining to the success, sales volumes and, to a limited extent, advertising expenditures of the iPhone, is not helpful in establishing that the purchasing public associates the term 'multitouch' with applicant."
The USPTO also noted that it did not appear Apple had used the term 'multitouch' on its goods or even the packaging of the products. "For this reason too we are not sympathetic to applicant's arguments that the success of the product sold under the 'iPhone' trademark translates to acquired distinctiveness of the term 'multitouch'," the office opined.