Hardcore Apple fans have always enjoyed speculating about future products, even going as far to visit trademark offices around the world in search of the Cupertino company’s official names for new devices, such as the highly-anticipated “iPhone 8.”
Now, according to a new report from Bloomberg, these intrepid souls might have trouble discovering the names of new products thanks to a “well-timed rule change at Jamaica’s trademark office and some clever maneuvering in Liechtenstein.”
The U.S. Trademark Act allows businesses to apply for a trademark in one country and still receive registration priority in the United States. The only rule is that the U.S. filing must occur within six months of the original, foreign filing data.
“I suspect Apple will keep jumping from jurisdiction to jurisdiction to keep prying eyes away,” says Dublin-based lawyer and so-called “trademark ninja” Brian Conroy. “It would be a shot in the dark every time to find the trademarks of future product names.”
Companies like Apple, Amazon, and Google have been registering new product names in countries without searchable trademark databases such as Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, Peru and Jamaica. The latter has long been a “hiding place” for such companies hoping to keep new names under wraps, but now things are changing.
“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,'” reads the report. “‘Proprietor searches will be performed by the office upon request and payment of the requisite fees, with only information on published and registered marks being provided.'”
Conroy says it’s now next to impossible to discover product names, especially for entirely new gadgets or computers. “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.”
Last year, Conroy uncovered trademarks for iPhone 7, iPhone 7 Plus, AirPods and Touch Bar, ahead of the company’s fall special event, spoiling surprises Apple had in store for customers.