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Apple iPad trademark dispute, and other madness

Apple iPadWill Apple be sued over its iPad tablet device? And is Apple already working on its own 'iPad killer'? The rumours continue to fly.

It feels like far more than week ago that Steve Jobs came down from the mountain bearing his magical tablet.

I thought we'd be able to settle back down to our humdrum lives once the dust had finally settled over the Apple iPad. But apparently not. iPad mania lives on in rumours, speculation and possibly even lawsuits.

iPad lawsuit?

Besides all the jokes about the iPad's name comes the news that Fujitsu's US division has been marketing mobile touchscreen-based devices called iPads since 2002. A little birdie shared an internal memo being sent around Fujitsu's US offices, which reads in part:

"It has come to our attention that some teams are receiving queries regarding this issue and FFNA has asked that the following statement be used in response to such inquiries: Fujitsu is aware of Apple's iPad announcement and the possible infringement on our trademark, which has been in use in connection with Fujitsu mobile retailing computer products since 2002. We are currently discussing our options with our trademark counsel and have no further comment at this time."

Of course, Apple gets special dispensation from God to do whatever it pleases (Steve Jobs is a living saint, after all), so don't expect Fujitsu to get much traction out of the fact it happens to own that trademark. Something similar happened with the iPhone, which was a product name trademarked by Infogear and owned by Linksys after it acquired Infogear in 2000, and subsequently passed on to Cisco when it snapped up Linksys in 2003.

Three days after Jobs unveiled the Jesus phone, Cisco sued Apple. A month later, the suit was dropped in exchange for the chance to "explore opportunities for interoperability in the areas of security and consumer and enterprise communications" and other terms marked strictly confidential. And by "confidential" they really mean "contains an undisclosed number of zeroes to the left of a decimal point".

Apple is claiming Fujitsu "abandoned" the iPad trademark in 2009 and has been petitioning the US Patent and Trademark Office for the rights to the name. I'm betting money will quietly exchange hands, a press release will be slid under the door, and everyone will soon forget that Fujitsu ever made something called an iPad (which they probably already have).

The next tablet, and other rumours

Meanwhile, TechCrunch has rumours about yet another tablet from - of all companies - Apple. It would be a much bigger, more powerful version of the iPad, running the Mac OS and allegedly coming later this year. (And no, as far as anyone knows, it will not be called the MaxiPad.) From the scant description, it really sounds more like a touchscreen iMac, but calling it a "tablet" brings you a lot more traffic.

Then there's the "webcam-enhanced" iPad 2.0 rumour, which began circulating after an Apple repair shop in Kansas City received spare parts for iPads that contained an internal hole where a webcam would normally go. Yes, really - why would a repair shop get parts for a product that no one outside Apple can put their hands on yet? I reckon they've been pranked.

Wait, there's more. According to Engadget, a French company called ExoPC is apparently set to announce its own touchscreen slate PC, which looks and smells very much like an Intel Atom-powered Windows 7-based netbook that has misplaced its keyboard. So far, however, nobody has called this one 'une Pomme assassin iPad'.

Finally, there's Google. (Isn't there always Google?) The blogosphere has already been buzzing about what a tablet running Google's Chrome OS would look like (complete with pictures). Now Steve Jobs and Eric Schmidt are taking pot shots at each other in public. Jobs allegedly said: "That 'don't be evil' mantra is a load of [excrement]" at a meeting over the weekend. The Google CEO responded by calling the iPad merely "a large phone". Zing!

This will be the big story in 2010: the growing hostility between Google and Apple. I predict it will flare into an all-out war before the year is out, Google tablet or not.

See also:

Apple iPad review

Apple's power could help it win trademark in Europe

Fujitsu threatens Apple with legal action over iPad

InfoWorld

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