Apple has been denied the “multi-touch” trademark, with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) deciding that it had already become generic in its usage. Although Apple attempted to trademark the term on the same day that the original iPhone was launched, January 9, 2007, the initial registration was rejected; Apple’s appeal has similarly been denied, with the USPTO saying that “the examining attorney was not persuaded by applicant’s showing of acquired distinctiveness.”
While Apple presented evidence indicating that it had used the term multi-touch first, in describing the way the iPhone’s touchscreen could recognize multiple points of contact rather than just one single point, the USPTO felt that evidence was insufficient in “establishing that the purchasing public associates the term multi-touch with applicant.” Apple’s trademark lawyers had highlighted the extreme success and brand-recognition of the iPhone, but the USPTO decided that “evidence pertaining to the success, sales volumes and, to a limited extent, advertising expenditures of the iPhone, is not helpful” to its case.
Meanwhile, Apple’s minimalist packaging may have hindered their arguments too, with the trademark office flagging up that “multi-touch” does not even get a name-check on either the iPhone or the box the smartphone comes in. A screenshot of the Apple website, where multi-touch does get mentioned, was submitted, but the USPTO claimed it also needed to see “evidence showing how long the term was used on the website and what levels of traffic it had on the website.”
“Simply because the applied-for term has been used in association with a highly successful product does not mean the term has acquired distinctiveness” the USPTO concludes. You can read the full ruling at Scribd.