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Why didn’t Apple name it the iWatch?

The rumors are over – the Apple Watch is now official – but you’ll inevitably hear people calling it the Apple iWatch for as long as the product exists. Considering the outrageous brand power of their other iProducts, why wouldn’t they cash in on the brand they’ve so successfully built and name their new smart watch the iWatch as everyone expected?

iwatch

The story is likely a long one. Probably one that’s spanned years. But if you boil it down to the basics, there is only one explanation: trademarks.

Apple doesn’t own the iWatch trademark

A trademark search at the USPTO yields 16 results for the term “iWatch”, 11 of which are dead, leaving 5 active trademarks for iWatch:

Shortly after Brightflash filed their trademark, blogs began hypothesizing it was an Apple shell company, set up in hopes of slipping a fast one by folks like us. The company’s lack of an identity, including any website or online trace, made this seem like a good possibility.

But that is somewhat irrelevant. Apple made it obvious they wanted to lock down the iWatch name with filings for the term in foreign countries such as Japan, Mexico, Taiwan, and Turkey. Unfortunately for Apple, in it’s most important market (the United States), M.Z. Berger & Co was granted that trademark in 2007. Further complicating things, the Swiss watch giant “Swatch” won appeals against M.Z. Berger, claiming that consumers would confuse the iWatch trademark with their own iSwatch trademark.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg. The USPTO didn’t actually terminate any iWatch trademarks as a result of legal proceedings, but Apple likely realized they were jumping into a cesspool of legal claims. These lawsuits could inevitably wipe away the device’s profit altogether. So why risk going down that road?

There would be no point. If Apple could definitively wrestle the “iWatch” trademark from someone, through acquisition or licensing the name, they very well may have run with the name. iMac, iPhoto, iCloud, iPod, iTunes, iPhone, iPad, iWatch… and the list goes on.

But let’s not forget about Apple TV, why isn’t that called iTV? Oh… because they don’t have the trademark for that, either.

Your mom thinks every watch is an iWatch

Apple’s iDevices have become so synonymous with product categories that people end up calling competing products by the same name. Just last week the NFL announcers kept calling the Microsoft Surface an iPad despite the company’s $500 Million sponsorship.

Whether Apple likes it or not, people will call the Apple Watch an iWatch, and not just your tech deficient mom. Don’t believe me? Just listen to Apple CEO Tim Cook:

Maybe they had been planning to call it the iWatch or along or maybe Apple’s branding is so good that even he iSays everything. Unfortunately, we may never know.

Branding that good doesn’t simply fall into your lap, that’s an association Apple’s advertising and marketing teams (and products) have earned them over the years. In the case of the iWatch, it’s largely wasted. Maybe, just maybe, the Apple Watch being delayed until 2015 will give them enough time to pull some strings, make some deals, and switcheroo the product name at launch time.

Doubtful, but it could happen.

Losing (and regaining) control of the iName

Aside from the iWatch rumor (which is no longer a rumor), a big screen Apple TV may be the next largest rumor on the radar. Apple already has a set top box named Apple TV but recent rumors suggest it could be an actual TV.

Apple doesn’t own the trademark for iTV either, but even if they did, it doesn’t have the same ring to it other iNames have. For once, I think they’d purposefully stick with the Apple TV name. Unless they come up with another magical non-descriptive idea such as the iPod.

Unfortunately, by now, so many companies have been snapping up iTrademarks that finding available names is like searching for domains. So many squatters and opportunists, so little time.

Apple has literally tons of money sitting in the bank. If people regularly and continually call the Apple Watch an iWatch, look for their legal team to push for an official device name change based on a list of reasons as long as the King James Bible with an explanation deeper than Mary Poppin’s bag.

apple-lawyers-marry-poppins

Apple’s market cap is $606 Billion USD and after just buying Beats for $3 Billion USD, they’ve shown an interest in acquiring premium consumer brands. Swatch Group’s market cap is about $26 Billion USD. It’s also possible that Apple could acquire Swatch Group and rebrand the Apple Watch to either iSwatch or iWatch.

But for now, we’re stuck with Apple Watch while people the world over continue to call it the iWatch. Me, you, Tim Cook, and everyone else. Pretty soon, when Apple launches a better TV, we’ll probably be stuck with Apple TV instead of iTV. But we’ll probably call it iTV anyways. Apple has created such a huge phenomenon with their baby – the iName – that they’ve lost control of the stroller.

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  • Corey0928

    Waiting for apple to change beats to ibeats