Almost everyone knows the small “i” at the beginning of the names of many Apple devices. But it will probably stay with the iPhone, iPad, iMac and iPod. TECHBOOK explains why Apple will probably have to do without the “i” completely in new product lines in the future.
iMac, iPhone, iPad – the “i” in the naming of the devices is Apple’s trademark. The manufacturer used the letter for the first time in the iMac, which was introduced in 1998. The first iPod followed in 2001, the iPhone in 2007 and the iPad in 2010. Even outside of its hardware, Apple used the “i” for recognition, as shown by the launch of the iTunes Store in 2003 and the introduction of the iOS firmware or iCloud. But as early as the early 2000s, it became apparent that the small letter Apple also caused problems. In the future, the company will probably have to do without the prominent “i” when naming new products.
Apple paid millions for trademark rights
Apple has often had problems with trademark rights in the past and has often had to pay millions in transfer fees to be able to use an already protected name. As Apple’s “i” became more and more well-known, some companies predicted possible new products from the Americans and secured the naming rights in advance, only to later hand them over to Apple at a high price.
For example, the name “iPhone” is not an invention of Apple. In fact, the world’s leading network company, Cisco, had secured the rights for a telephone even before Apple – the Linksys iPhone came onto the market as early as 1998. The Americans therefore had to pay Cisco an undisclosed sum in a legal dispute and subsequently took over the naming rights for the iPhone themselves. It was the same with the iPad. The Chinese company ProView held the trademark rights here and sold them for 60 million US dollars after a three-year legal dispute. The Japanese company Fujitsu had previously assigned the rights to the “iPad” name to Apple.
Apple was unsuccessful in the dispute over the name “iTV”, which was presented in 2006. The trademark rights are held by the British television station iTV, which is still active in Great Britain today. Apple was defeated in the lawsuit and ultimately had to rename its iTV to Apple TV. But this process also cost the company a lot of money.
With the Apple Watch, the whole thing came to a head even more. Three companies had already secured the name “iWatch” in their countries before Apple. In the USA, OMG Electronics had the thumb on the name, in Ireland and the EU the trademark rights were held by the software developer Probendi and in China the name “iWatch” was also in the hands of an unknown company. The world’s three largest markets were thus blocked for Apple. Buying the trademark rights for “iWatch” here would probably have cost billions. The company therefore decided to launch an Apple Watch instead of the iWatch.
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Character cannot be protected
As early as 2010, around the time the first iPad was introduced, Apple made an attempt to solve the trademark rights issue once and for all. The company tried to secure the rights to the “i” prefix. But the court refused on the grounds that no one should own the rights to a single letter. This left the company with only one solution – to use the name for products for which it already owned the rights: Apple.
New Apple products in the future without the prefix “i”?
Recently, Apple hasn’t launched a new product line with names beginning with an “i”. Instead, Apple is increasingly using its company name in the designation, probably for the reasons mentioned above. There is the aforementioned Apple Watch and the Apple TV, but also the smart speaker Apple HomePod, the AirPods and the Apple AirTags. The company calls the newly introduced services Apple Music, Apple TV+, Apple Car, Apple Arcade, Apple Fitness+ etc. – also without the prefix “i”. It can therefore no longer be assumed that newly developed products from Apple will still be named after the old way. The days of the “i” in new names are definitely over.