Before the official introduction of Apple's smartwatch last month, fans had seemingly decided on the company's behalf that the new product should be called the iWatch. So when Tim Cook took the stage and sort of broke from gadget naming conventions, it came as a bit of a surprise to many Apple watchers.
But not to Daniele Di Salvo. His small Dublin-based software development studio owns the trademark for iWatch in the European Union, and he's warned Apple and other companies not to use the term. The world has been warned.
Di Salvo, a 50-year-old Italian entrepreneur, co-founded Probendi in 2007. His small company developed an application called iWatch that helps different devices communicate with one another. For example, police in Vercelli, a small town in northern Italy, use it on their smartphones to send mugshots to headquarters. Probendi filed a trademark for iWatch, covering computing devices and software that went into effect on Aug. 3, 2008, Di Salvo says in a phone interview.
While the patent wars have ensnared tech giants including Apple in lengthy court battles, navigating the global trademark system can be just as taxing. Apple sued Amazon.com for using Appstore as the name for its Kindle software marketplace, kicking off two years of court battles that were eventually dismissed. Amazon continues to use the name today. In 2012, Apple paid $60 million to settle a trademark dispute in China over rights to use the name iPad. And in 2006, Steve Jobs previewed a product called the iTV. When the gadget finally hit the market, its name had changed to Apple TV following objections from British television network iTV. Josh Rosenstock, a spokesman for Apple, didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.
With a claim to the iWatch name, Probendi aims to take full advantage. The company plans to build its own wearable device called the iWatch. Di Salvo, the chief executive officer, expects the product to run Google’s Android 4.4 software and have a square touchscreen, GPS and accelerometer to facilitate health tracking and other apps. Di Salvo is traveling throughout China, searching for a manufacturer to churn out a gadget that undercuts the Apple Watch’s $349 price tag.