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Apple's Trademark Mistake and How to Avoid It

In 2013, a projected 2.6 million applications for patents were filed worldwide. That is more than double the number of applications from 1998 to 2010. Recently, Apple's popular iPad Mini was recently rejected by the United States Trademark Examiners to trademark its name. The reason being that the word "mini" is simply viewed as an adjective and does nothing to make the name of the overall product stand out. In order to fully grasp patent law and why Apple was denied, we must first understand what a trademark is and its purpose.

A trademark is a symbol, word, or group of words that are legally registered by use to represent a company or product. In other words, a trademark lets purchasers know who is supplying the product they are buying. For example, when you purchase a cereal brand from General Mills like Golden Grahams, you see the logo for General Mills in the top corner, which lets you know that General Mills is supplying this product. Also, other companies cannot use "Golden Grahams" to name their products consequently. While a design patent lasts 14 years and starts on the day it was approved, a utility patent lasts 20 years and is measured from the date in which the application was filed.

Along with letting consumers know who supplied the product, trademarks must stand out enough so anyone looking to purchase the product would know exactly what company is supplying the particular good. The Trademark Examiner determines if a trademark is unique enough to fit that criterion. There are two main reasons why a logo would not be accepted as a trademark. First, if the term or symbol is too closely related to another symbol, it will be more likely to throw off or mislead consumers, which is not ideal. Marks are usually subjective and generic and are not specific or related to the product. The second reason is that the symbol or logo is too explanatory of the product. If the symbol is too obvious, it will not be approved. For example, if a shoe company called "Diva Shoes" wanted to trademark its name, it would most likely be denied because "shoes" is a generic word and also describes what the business provides.

For companies looking to apply for a trademark of their product or company, hiring a patent attorney or intellectual property lawyer who fully understands patent law is key. Patent law specialists can review your company's mark and advise whether or not the likelihood for trademark approval is applicable. On the bright side, Minneapolis patent law firms are well known for their experience in patent and trademark law. Making sure your brand stands out from the rest is important and with the right team, that dream can become a reality.

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