iPad mini 2Should Apple be allowed to trademark its “iPad Mini” branding? Not if you ask the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

According to the office, the “Mini” in iPad Mini isn’t a recognizable sign or design — it’s a description: The iPad Mini is a smaller version of the iPad, and its name reflects that, the office argues. As a result, it’s denied Apple’s trademark for the branding.

“Only where the combination of descriptive terms creates a unitary mark with a unique, incongruous, or otherwise nondescriptive meaning in relation to the goods and/or services is the combined mark registrable,” the patent office argued in a letter sent to Apple in January.

Basically, because the “iPad Mini” name is just telling consumers what the device is, Apple can’t trademark it. To the USPTO, it’s the same as a light fixture maker trying to trademark something like “ceiling fan” or McDonald’s trying to trademark “double cheeseburger.”

But this isn’t just about the “Mini” branding — this is about Apple’s infamous “i” branding as well. “The term “IPAD” is descriptive when applied to applicant’s goods because the prefix “I” denotes “Internet,” according to the USPTO.

That’s not exactly true. After all, it’s not as if the original iPod could connect to the Internet. In fact, I’m not sure Apple’s ever said exactly what the “i” in iPhone, iPad, iPod, and iMac actually stands for.

But this isn’t the end of the story for Apple, which still has until July to tweak its application with some extra wording (“No claim is made to the exclusive right to use “MINI” apart from the mark as shown,” etc.), which should help the USPTO accept the approve the application.


Photo: Devindra Hardawar/VentureBeat

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