Apple may face a legal battle if it wants to launch an iWatch in the US. It's emerged that a far smaller California company has filed for a patent on the iWatch name, and is currently attempting to raise funds to build a product with that name.
The New York Post reports that OMG Electronics, a firm operating out of Fresno, California, has taken steps to trademark 'iWatch', and attempted to crowdsource funding for an iWatch on Indiegogo nine months ago. (It was able to raise only $1,434; presumably enough money to buy an iWatch but probably not enough to research, design and build one.)
We're not familiar with the company, but one glance at OMG's basic-looking website would suggest that it's not a major player. Our suspicion would be that the end goal of this move is to pick up publicity and maybe troll for a trademark payoff, rather than make a serious move on the smartwatch market. It certainly wouldn't be the first crafty competitor that managed to grab an 'i' trademark before Apple, then sit pretty and wait for the payoff.
One possible complication relates to the use of the trademark. In a case over the use of the iPhone trademark in Brazil earlier this year, Apple tried to have another company's trademark revoked on the basis that it didn't actually create an iPhone product until several years after it won the trademark - and five years after the Apple iPhone itself launched. That attempt by Apple failed, but OMG's abortive crowdsourcing funding run could nevertheless be an attempt to demonstrate its intention to make full use of the iWatch trademark.
It's still not known whether Apple is seriously planning on creating an iWatch, of course; the chances increased earlier this week, with the news that Apple has moved to trademark the iWatch name in Japan, Mexico and other countries - but not the US, and now we know why. In the UK (and across Europe) the iWatch trademark is owned by a network services company called Probendi, which uses the iWatch name for a somewhat dull-sounding mobile phone app.
Wearable tech is one of the big trends this year, with Google for one making waves with its futuristic Google Glass connected specs. Apple has for some time been expected to respond with a smartwatch - a wristwatch with stripped-down iPhone or iPod touch capabilities. As if often the case with Apple, though, we may not know for sure until the iWatch launch event.