Apple Faces Trademark Conflicts on iPad

Observers had widely varying reactions to the debut Wednesday of the new iPad, from Apple (AAPL), but one response seemed to be universal: Whats with the name?

Now it seems the problems with the new brand are not limited to menstrual jokes. Not one, but two companies have prior claim to the mark iPad, though they both use different capitalization.

According to the French newspaper La Tribune, chipmaker STMicroelectronics (STM) has owned European rights to the trademark IPAD for nearly nine years. On 1 September 2000 … STMicroelectronics introduced the brand IPAD with OHIM, the Office of Trademark Registration of the European Union, La Tribune reported. The mark was duly registered September 14, 2001.

Because the IPAD is still on sale, STMicro could in theory take Apple to court in the EU.

Closer to home, Fujitsu (FUJ.IL) several years ago introduced the iPAD, a powerful, retail-hardened mobile device that integrates multiple applications into a single, compact solution. An upgrade announced in 2006 made the device ideally positioned to support multiple customer-facing applications such as guided-selling, inventory look-up and price verification, line-busting, and even sidewalk sales, Fujitsu said in a statement. The company said that customers using the iPAD included Staples and American Eagle Outfitters. Fujitsus trademark application for the mark is still outstanding.

There is no word from STMicroelectronics on what it plans to do about the new iPad. As for Fujitsu, The Financial Times reported that the company released a statement saying, in part, [The company] is aware of Apples iPad announcement and the possible infringement on our trademark … We are currently discussing our options with our trademark counsel and have no further comment at this time.

Apple has been down this road before: When it released the iPhone in 2006, Cisco quickly pointed out that it owned the trademark to that brand. Apple and Cisco reportedly settled out of court in an agreement that allowed Apple to continue using the mark.

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