Almost everyone knows the little “i” at the beginning of the names of many Apple devices. But it will probably remain with iPhone, iPad, iMac and iPod. atechbook explains why Apple will probably have to do without the “i” completely for new product lines in the future.
iMac, iPhone, iPad – the “i” in the names of the devices is Apple’s trademark. The manufacturer first used the letter 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 the launch of the iTunes Store in 2003 and the introduction of the iOS firmware or the iCloud showed. But already in the early 2000s, it became apparent that the small letter was also causing Apple problems. In the future, the company will probably have to do without the prominent “i” completely when naming new products.
Apple paid millions for trademark rights
Apple has had frequent problems with trademark rights in the past and has often had to pay millions in compensation to be allowed to use a name that is already protected. As Apple’s “i” became more and more famous, some companies predicted possible new products from the Americans and secured the naming rights in advance, only to hand them over to Apple later at a high price.
The name “iPhone,” for example, is not an Apple invention. Rather, Cisco, now the world’s leading networking company, had already secured the rights for a phone before Apple – the Linksys iPhone came onto the market back in 1998. The Americans therefore had to pay Cisco an unknown sum in a legal dispute and subsequently took over the naming rights for the iPhone themselves. The situation was similar with the iPad. The Chinese company ProView held the trademark rights and sold them for 60 million US dollars after a three-year legal dispute. Previously, the Japanese company Fujitsu had ceded the rights to the name “iPad” to Apple.
Apple was not successful in the dispute over the name “iTV”, which was introduced in 2006. The trademark rights are held by the British television company iTV, which is still active in the UK today. Apple was defeated in the legal dispute and finally had to rename its iTV to Apple TV. But this lawsuit 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 U.S., OMG Electronics had its 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 to 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.
Letter cannot be protected
As early as 2010 – around the time of the launch of the first iPad – Apple made an attempt to solve the problem of trademark rights once and for all. The company tried to secure the rights to the prefix “i.” But the court refused on the grounds that no one should hold the rights to a single letter. This left the company with only one solution – to use the name for products for which it already held the rights: Apple.
New Apple products without the “i” prefix in the future?
In the recent past, Apple no longer launched a new product line with a name that starts with an “i”. Instead, Apple uses its company name more and more often, 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 entirely without the “i” prefix. It can therefore no longer be assumed that newly developed products from Apple will still be named in the old way. The times of the “i” in new names are probably finally over.