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explosion of app icon trademark filings

Posted by ipelton on: July 11th, 2011

The big discussion in recent weeks in the trademark community has been about new domain name extensions. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) recently approved procedures for the creation of new TLDs, meaning .apple, .work, .computer, .facebook, and the like could be in our future. Of course, this could be fertile grounds for trademark disputes. Who should be permitted to own and control .bank? or .delta? or .smith?

But in my opinion there is a bigger and growing “domain” that will see many more trademark disputes in the coming months and years: mobile app icons. Only so much graphics and text that can fit within a small square icon on a phone. If a company other than Google uses a logo featuring a lowercase “g”, would it infringe Google’s trademark? These types of questions will likely arise with greater frequency as the number of apps continues to explode and as companies realize the trademark protection implications in the app world.

For example, the following icons have been registered by the USPTO in the first half of 2011:

[click images for USPTO TARR records]

In addition, dozens of new applications for app icons have been filed in 2011, including Google and Amex.

More brands creating and launching apps and more app users will inevitably lead to more trademark disputes related to the app names and logos.

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