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Apple Inc. iWatch: Keeping Up With Patents and Rumors


Apple has filed a trademark for "iWatch" in Japan, further fueling rumors about a smart watch.

With an application filed on June 3 and made public last week, Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) is seeking to trademark "iWatch" in Japan. This comes on the heels of news that the company filed for the trademark in Russia last month. Of course, this has added new energy to rumors of Apple releasing the iWatch later this year, however the trademark news must be taken with a grain of salt: Major tech companies like Apple are constantly filing applications for trademarks in order to protect themselves if a certain product were to exist. An iWatch may be in the works, but by filing the trademarks, Apple is seeking to make sure it has rights to the name, no matter what.

Here's a summary at the patent applications that have fueled the iWatch rumors to date:
  • September 2012: Apple was granted a patent for an electromagnetic induction system that could allow a device to be charged by shaking, a technology that would certainly be useful for the iWatch.
  • December 2012: The company was awarded a patent for a new process for creating high-quality curved glass.
  • February 2013: Apple was granted a patent for an "integrated touch sensor and solar assembly," which would allow a solar panel to capture energy from the sun while also being an optical sensor of a touchscreen. This technology could allow for Apple to make compact yet highly capable and energy efficient gadgets, like an iWatch.
  • Also in February, a patent for a "bi-stable spring with with flexible display," originally filed in August of 2011, made headlines. The patent describes a full-length, bendable, touchscreen display, and also a "slap-bracelet" mechanism for attaching the device to the users wrist for a custom fit. Additionally, the device would be able to sync with iPads, iPhones, and other Apple devices.
A mockup of what the iWatch may look like,
  • Earlier this month, it was reported that Apple had been granted a patent, originally applied for in January, for a curved, flexible battery. Rumors circulated that the curved battery would be part of an iWatch or an even more mysterious Apple product: a bendable smartphone.
Many analysts have taken the information from these patents and assumed the iWatch will launch later this year, but noted KGI Securities Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who has a solid track record for predicting Apple product rollouts, expects the iWatch to ship in late 2014. Kuo released a report on May 22, writing that the iWatch will be Apple's first move into the wearable tech field, against Google Inc's glass, which is still in its "explorer" phase, wherein a select group of consumers were chosen to buy the new device for $1500. Moreover, he said the device will have a 1.5- to 2-inch screen and will focus on biometrics, which could provide heightened security features as well as health-care apps for measuring heartbeat, blood pressure, distance walked in a day, and more.

With the iWatch rumors so prevalent, Apple's main competitor has responded in earnest so as not to miss out on the potential market for smart watches. In March, Samsung Electronics Ltd. (OTCMKTS:SSNLF) announced it was developing a smart watch. As Lee Young Hee, the company's Executive Vice President for Mobile told Bloomberg in an interview, "We've been preparing the watch product for so long...We are preparing products for the future, and the watch is definitely one of them."

Samsung obviously does not value the element of surprise as much as Apple does, but considering how the Internet allows rumors to spread so wide and so fast, maybe Apple's use of secrecy is only a formality -- now part of the company's tradition.

Also see:

PCs and Tablets: Two Markets Trending in Opposite Directions

Apple Inc. Finds Itself in Crosshairs as Google Enters Console-Gaming Arena

Is the Apple Inc. and Samsung 'Slump' Good News for Competitors?

Follow me on Twitter: @JoshWolonick and @Minyanville
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