The cat-and-mouse game between Apple and those trying to unearth upcoming product names through trademark searches just became more difficult for the cats …


Apple has long registered trademarks in countries that have no online search facilities, to make it harder for people to spot new registered names. U.S. law allows a company to register a trademark in any country in the world and later do so in the USA also, so long as the U.S. registration occurs within six months.

Jamaica has been a popular choice for Apple, as Bloomberg notes.

The Jamaica Intellectual Property Office is housed in a modern palm-flanked building in the capital, Kingston. Thirty-one people work there and at least 10 trademark searches are conducted each day, according to the office’s director Lilyclaire Bellamy. The only way to conduct searches is in-person, meaning sleuths need to fly to Jamaica or hire a local trademark lawyer to search the office’s computer system like an old-school library.

Irish lawyer Brian Conroy made something of a name for himself by paying local law firms to conduct searches for him, finding the trademarks for the iPhone 7, iPhone 7 Plus, AirPods and Touch Bar – each time before the names had been officially announced. But it seems that he may not be so fortunate in the future.

Under new rules posted in the office and reviewed by Bloomberg, “proprietor searches and date range searches will no longer be available using these public computers. Proprietor searches will be performed by the office upon request and payment of the requisite fees […]

“You can no longer search for ‘any applications filed by Apple in the last X months,'” Conroy says, “which is what you really need to do to find trademarks for products which don’t yet exist and which we don’t know the name of.”

The Jamaica Intellectual Property Office’s director Lilyclaire Bellamy claims the rule isn’t, in fact, new – but is instead a clarification of the existing rules. Either way, it looks like Apple will have an easier time keeping its product names secret – even if it doesn’t do quite so well when it comes to features and designs.

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