US Patent Office turns down Apple’s iPad mini trademark application

Apple’s been having some pretty bad luck on the patent and trademark front lately. It recently lost a trademark battle in Mexico for its world-renown ‘iPhone’ moniker, and it’s fighting a similar battle in Brazil.

And that bad luck continues this week with reports claiming that the United States Patent and Trademark Office has turned down the Cupertino company’s trademark application for its just-launched iPad mini…

Shortly after launching the tiny tablet, Apple filed for a trademark for the ‘iPad mini’ name with the USPTO. But, as noted by PatentlyApple today, the reviewer felt that the term mini “merely describes” the product.

Here’s a few excerpts from the letter, which was sent to Apple back in January:

“The term “MINI” in the applied for mark is also descriptive of a feature of applicant’s product.Specifically, the attached evidence shows this wording means “something that is distinctively smaller thanother members of its type or class”. See attached definition. The word “mini” has been held merelydescriptive of goods that are produced and sold in miniature form…

…The examining attorney has also attached evidence from an internet search showing third party descriptiveuse of the term “mini” to describe the small size of various handheld digital devices. See attachedevidence. Therefore, the wording merely describes a feature of applicant’s goods, namely, a small sizedhandheld tablet computer.”

Another reason given for the refusal is that other identities have applied for the “iPad” trademark, and therefore there’s a “likelihood of confusion between the marks.” But wait, doesn’t Apple own the iPad trademark?

It sure does. In March 2010, Apple actually acquired the iPad trademark from Japanese powerhouse Fujitsu, which locked down the name for them in the US. Of course, things weren’t that simple in every country.

Apple spent the better half of last year fighting with Proview, a Chinese electronics-maker, over the iPad name in China. In fact, its tablet sales were blocked in the country for a while before Apple eventually settled.

At any rate, it’s certainly strange that this USPTO reviewer has taken issue with Apple’s ‘iPad mini’ trademark. After all, isn’t ‘iPod nano’ the same thing? And it has a trademark on that. It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out.

What do you think? Should Apple be granted the ‘iPad mini’ trademark?