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Apple suing over patent office’s refusal to grant augmented reality software trademark

Apple filed a lawsuit in Virginia federal court challenging the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and its refusal to grant the company trademarks for its augmented reality tools.

The company has argued that its augmented reality software development tools “Reality Composer” and “Reality Converter” should be trademarked. The office has said the phrases were not distinct enough to warrant a federal trademark protection.

In the lawsuit, Apple argued that the phrases were coined by the company and are “quintessentially suggestive terms” that “sound like science fiction impossibilities.” The company argued that the phrases are suggestive, just as Burger King is a fast-food chain and not an actual monarch.

“The combination of two incongruous terms into one mark, which together require imagination in order to make sense practically, are hallmarks of a suggestive mark,” Apple said in the lawsuit.

Apple is asking the Virginia court to reverse the USPTO decision. It argued that “Reality Composer” is a creative name for the tool because composer typically relates to music, not technology, and it is not used by any competitors. Apple argued that “it takes imagination and a few moments of thought” to understand how “Reality Converter” would relate to an Apple product.

The company added that USPTO has “also registered dozens of trademarks” for phrases that have reality in it “used in connection with software products.”

Apple said that it has used the phrases “exclusively for over four years” since Reality Composer was announced in June 2019 and Reality Converter was announced in January 2020.

The tools allow developers to create augmented reality content for Apple apps. It’s a key part of its newest launched product, the Vision Pro headset.

The Turkish company ZeroDensity pushed back on Apple’s trademark applications and argued that they should not receive a federal trademark because they simply describe what the software does and cause confusion with its own products with “Reality” in the name, Reuters, who first reported the lawsuit, wrote.

Apple argued in the lawsuit that ZeroDensity’s attempts were “baseless” and there was “no likelihood” that their products could be confused. It added that the USPTO granted ZeroDensity a trademark for “RealityHub” without requiring additional explanation to prove a secondary meaning.

The USPTO did not have a comment on the lawsuit.

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