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Does Apple Have a Trademark Dispute in Its Near Future?

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Here we go again.

For a company that's gone after startups, arcade machine gadgets, laptop covers and bags, an Australian supermarket chain, a Vancouver college, and even the Big Apple itself -- not to mention many large corporations -- Apple certainly has no problem adopting competitors' trademarks for itself. Between the iPhone name and the very company itself, Apple has a well-defined double standard of copyright co-opting.

And now, with word that it will soon introduce Intel's answer to USB 3.0 in upcoming MacBooks, Apple may soon find itself disputing the name with HTC in court.

Engadget got its hands on a leaked spec sheet for the upcoming 13-inch MacBook refresh. Along with an Intel 2.3GHz Sandy Bridge i5 processor, 3 MB of L3 cache, and an SDXC reader, the laptop will purportedly come with support for Intel's Light Peak -- an optical cable interface capable of 100 gigabits per second. With such lightning speed at hand, Apple naturally dubbed it with a speed-centric name: Thunderbolt.

Unfortunately, HTC is on the precipice of debuting its new Android smartphone for Verizon named Thunderbolt. And according to Engadget, Verizon is the sole owner of any claim filed for the "Thunderbolt" name.

Normally, such an infraction would either be overlooked or quietly changed. But given smartphones' connectivity with laptops via cable interfaces, there's enough technical overlap for a company to file a suit. And considering Apple's history in court -- and a particularly nasty battle with HTC -- it's doubtful the manufacturer will take this lying down, even if Verizon is caught in the middle with its latest iPhone model.

As with any court case involving Cupertino, things are going to get heated -- with the swiftness of a thunderbolt, one might say.

(See also: Is Apple Prepared to Sue Sesame Street?, Apple Continues Trademark Lunacy, and Name Games: Apple vs. Apple)

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