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US patent office reverses course on iPad Mini trademark objections

Despite an initial rejection, the US Patent Office has reversed course and withdrawn its objections to Apple's trademark application for the iPad mini name.

"Upon further review of the application, the examining attorney has determined that the following refusals issued in the initial Office action should be withdrawn. The examining attorney apologizes for any inconvenience caused," according to the Patent Office filing, which was posted online by MacRumors.

The news comes about a week after the USPTO denied Apple a trademark for the company's iPad mini tablet because the iPad mini mark "merely describes a feature or characteristic" of Apple's product, and does not "create a unique, incongruous, or non-descriptive meaning in relation to the goods being small handheld mobile devices comprising tablet computers capable of providing Internet access."

After a second look at the application, however, the USPTO has apparently had a change of heart. Apple still has some work ahead of it, though. The USPTO said no one else has registered the "iPad mini" mark at this point, but there are at least eight other pending applications that might be confusingly similar to Apple's. As a result, Apple's application might be suspended while the agency considers the other applications.

"In response to this Office action, [Apple] may present arguments in support of registration by addressing the issue of the potential conflict between applicant's mark and the marks in the referenced applications," the USPTO said.

Apple doesn't have to submit a formal response on that point, but the USPTO is requiring the company to submit a disclaimer that acknowledges that it can only pursue the "iPad mini" name and not the term "mini" alone.

"An applicant may not claim exclusive rights to terms or designs that others may need to use to describe or show their goods or services in the marketplace," the USPTO said, so other companies still have the right to include the word "mini" in their product names.