Fujitsu’s iPad Name Claim Unlikely to Hurt Apple

Nathan Eddy is a contributor to eWeek and TechWeekEurope, covering cloud and BYOD

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With Fujitsu and others are queuing up to claim the iPad name, Apple can just bask in the extra publicity, say experts

With technology companies including Fujitsu lining up to claim ownership of the iPad brand, the extra publicity for the touch screen tablet device will be good for Apple, according to experts.

Fujitsu claims it owns the name “iPad” which Apple used for its touch screen tablet launched last week (read our First Look)

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Released in 2002, Fujitsu’s iPAD (left) is a VoIP capable mobile device intended to assist sales associates and store managers in making sales and checking inventory data. The device used a Windows operating system and featured a color display, keypad and Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity.

Fujitsu’s public relations director, Masahiro Yamane, told The New York Times it is the company’s understanding that the iPad name is theirs, and said they are currently consulting lawyers. “Mobile is a keyword for Fujitsu’s iPad, too,” Yamane told the Times. “With the iPad, workers don’t have to keep running back to a computer. They have everything right at their fingertips.”

The Times also reported Fujitsu applied for an iPad trademark in 2003, then abandoned it in 2009, only to reapply for the trademark later in the year.

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Fujitsu is not the only company staking claim to the iPad brand name; European chipmaker STMicroelectronics holds an IPAD ((Integrated Passive and Active Devices) trademark for its semiconductor technology and security technology company Magtek offers an IPAD handheld POS terminal.

Apple’s decision to name the device the iPad was received with sarcasm and scorn in some media circles, but in an interview with The Wall Street Journal, the managing director of the New York office of branding firm Landor, Allen Adamson, said critics’ appraisal of Apple’s branding decision is unlikely to impact sales. “If the only issue with the iPad is the name, than Apple will have a home run,” he told the paper.

Apple will most likely approach Fujitsu to do a cross licence deal, to allow both products to continue unchanged, according to the founder of Apple retail and care specialist Tech Superpowers, Michael O: “Either that, or they would go to court,” he said. “However, it would be highly unlikely that Apple’s trademark lawyers didn’t anticipate this already.”

Oh pointed out Apple has been in this situation before, when Cisco announced it had filed a lawsuit against Apple over the infringement of the trademark iPhone, seeking an injunction in federal court to prohibit Apple from using the name. The two companies later settled amicably, with both companies keeping the name for their respective devices.

More than anything, this minor furore over who owns the iPad trademark ultimately works in Apple’s favor, bringing the company even more free publicity on a much-ballyhooed product. “The more press that Apple gets during this period – when no one actually has the product in hand – will ultimately make the impact of the ‘just got the iPad’ reviews even bigger on the marketplace,” he said. “They do everything by design, so it would be very much out of character for them to mess up such a big thing like the name of the product.”