Chip maker Intel had stressed they, not Apple, own all Thundebolt trademarks. Even though Apple and Intel collaborated on this high-speed I/O technology featured on the 2011 MacBook Pro and iMac families, the confusion arose when Patently Apple discovered that Apple filed for the Thunderbolt brand name trademark, their third since the technology debuted on the new MacBook Pro family in February of 2011. Few were convinced Apple owns the trademark, including Cult of Mac’s Ed Sutherland who asked, “Who the heck owns Thunderbolt, Intel or Apple?”

Deciding enough is enough, Intel has now made claims it owns the Thunderbolt trademark. Responding to an inquiry from Theo Valich over at Bright side of news, Intel’s senior communications manager Dave Salvator provided this statement:

As part of our collaboration with Apple, they did some of the initial trademark filings.  Intel has full rights to the Thunderbolt trademark now and into the future. The Thunderbolt name will be used going forward on all platforms, irrespective of operating system.

[UPDATE May 20, 2011 3:15am Pacific] Intel’s representative has contacted the publication with additional clarification. To make a long story short, Intel and Apple have agreed that the iPhone maker will transfer their Thunderbolt trademark to the semiconductor giant. Valich explains:

Apple filed for the original trademark and is now transferring that trademark to Intel. At the same time, Apple will continue to have unrestricted use of the technology. 3rd party implementations such as Sony’s desire to use USB Connector instead of DisplayPort and the eventual change of technology branding (Sony’s IEEE1394 a.k.a. Firewire implementation was named i.LINK) will have to be ironed out as the time passes by.


I guess this invalidates Apple’s ahead-of-time November 2010 Thunderbolt trademark filed with the US and Canadian trademark offices in Jamaica. And what about another Thunderbolt trademark claim from Apple that surfaced in the United States Patent & Trademark Office’s database on May 11, 2011? The situation is getting murkier with each passing day, if you ask us.

Another interesting tidbit came when Valich asked Intel’s Salvator to reflect on future Thunderbolt implementations based on optical connectivity (current version uses copper wiring for cost reasons).

“The (Thunderbolt optical) cable could carry power in the same cable (running next to optical part of cable), but exact product plans are still to be announced”, Salvador said.

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