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Apple hits roadblock as other companies register 'iWatch' trademark in US, UK and China

The development and future marketing of the Apple iWatch may have hit a stumbling block.

Despite filing for the trademark 'iWatch' in Japan (opens in new tab), Taiwan, Russia and Mexico last month, the name has already been registered in the relevant categories by other companies in some of Apple's biggest markets, including the US, Europe and China.

In Europe, Probendi, an Italian company, uses the name for an application that can send real-time audio, video and location data to an online emergency and security support system.

Probendi has registered the name with the Office of Harmonization for the Internal Market (OHIM), the agency that is responsible for trademarks and patents across the European Union, meaning it has 'Community Trade Mark' status that stands in all EU countries, including the UK.

The trademark is covered by class 9 (opens in new tab) which, importantly, includes computers and "all computer programs and software regardless of recording media or means of dissemination."

Interestingly, the class explicitly states it does not include "clocks and watches and other chronometric instruments" which is covered by class 14: Jewellery. The iWatch however will be a whole new kind of wearable technology and most definitely not a simple chronometric instrument.

Mobile phones are covered by the separate class 38, which also includes "services which consist essentially of the diffusion of radio or television programmes."

The trademark in the US is owned by Californian smartwatch developed OMG Electronics. It planned to raise funds to build a device through crowd funding platform IndieGoGo last year. However, the company failed to secure enough money to start production.

In China, the trademark has been registered by nine companies in the past but most are now invalid. The term iWatching is, however, active and could be a source of difficulty for Apple. The company is already fighting lawsuits in the country over its Siri and Snow Leopard brands.

One option for Apple may be to simply pay off the trademark owners. It paid $60 million (£40.2 million) in China for the right to use the term iPad (opens in new tab) and was also forced to strike a deal over the name iPhone in Brazil.

The iWatch, which is anticipated for release later this year (opens in new tab), will be Apple's first new product in the post-Steve Jobs era. The company has not yet confirmed that the device is in development.

Competitor Sony has already launched its Android 'second screen' SmartWatch 2 (opens in new tab) and Samsung has also confirmed the development of a Galaxy Smart Watch (opens in new tab).

Tomas is co-founder of Lucky Pilgrim, a team of journalists, photographers and art directors who connect brands to audiences through words, imagery and design. He was formerly editorial director at Chapel and managing editor at Courier magazine, and was a writer for ITProPortal as well as The Independent, EastLondonLines, The Sunday Times Magazine, and Croon.