Apple iWatch trademark application filed in Japan

Apple has filed a trademark application for "iWatch" in Japan, fueling speculation that the company is preparing to launch a smartwatch companion device for the iPhone and iPad. The filing, made on June 3 Bloomberg reports, refers to potential uses of the name as being for a watch device or a "handheld computer".

Apple's plans for its wearable are still unofficial, though that hasn't stopped ongoing speculation about the rumored iWatch project. Earlier this year, the company was tipped to have around 100 designers and engineers working on the smartwatch, while chatter back in December 2012 suggested Apple was working with Intel on the digital timepiece.

Intel later confirmed it was developing smartwatches, though declined to comment on whether Apple was involved.

Meanwhile, there have been other Apple technology developments that have pointed to a watch on the horizon. A curved battery patent earlier this year, for instance, could be a way to save space in a compact wrist-worn form factor, its been suggested.

On the flip side, just because Apple attempts to trademark a name, there's no guarantee that it will use that specific name for a commercial product; nor, indeed, that any product will launch at all. Still, that's looking increasingly unlikely: analysts have predicted that the iWatch could be a $6bn market for Apple.

Meanwhile, Apple's rivals continue to push ahead on their own smartwatch projects. Sony revealed its third-generation model, the SmartWatch 2 SW2, last week, while Samsung is believed to be preparing its own model as well.