updated 07:15 pm EDT, Mon August 15, 2011
May be an attempt to discourage knock-offs
Apple's Smart Cover for the iPad 2 has been trademarked as a name in most of the major territories where Apple does business -- the U.S., Canada, Europe and China -- but the company is moving to file a "figurative" trademark on the design, a patent filing in China discovered by Patently Apple shows. Should the patent be granted, Apple would be in a position to pursue litigation against "knock off" imitators.
The action may have been sparked by a recent incident where Chinese accessory makers created a so-called "Smart Case" imitation for the Samsung Galaxy Tab and claimed it was endorsed by Samsung (later denied by the company). There have also been instances of poorly-made imitations finding their way to the U.S. via online Chinese resellers.
Several U.S. companies also offer a "Smart Cover"-like front protector for the iPad, usually supplied by Chinese manufacturers. It is likely that Apple would go after the suppliers, rather than the retailers, in pursuing any litigation for misappropriation of the Smart Cover design.
A figurative trademark incorporates both the physical design of a device along with its trade name, specifically useful for low-quality or facsimile copies of items. Apple's application for the figurative trademark falls under classes 9 and 18, normally used for sleeves, cases, pouches and sheaths for computer- or business-related items.
The 3D representation of the item (as shown below) is claimed by Apple as a representation for the purposes of the trademark. [via Patently Apple]