Full-size iPad on the left, iPad mini on the right.
Jacqui Cheng / Ars Technica
Apple's application for the "iPad mini" trademark must be more descriptive if the US Patent and Trademark Office is going to approve it. A document from the USPTO surfaced online over the weekend, indicating that the office was unlikely to give Apple the trademark based on its initial description. Although some have interpreted the letter as an outright rejection, the USPTO's response offers Apple options for modifying its application—as long as it offers a disclaimer on "mini."
The USPTO's letter to Apple is dated January 24 but was only just made public. In it, the organization notes that while "iPad" is descriptive when applied to Apple's goods—the "i" because it's understood by the public to refer to the Internet, while "pad" is connected with tablet computers. "Mini," on the other hand, is the word that the USPTO takes issue with. Because "mini" is usually applied to something that's just smaller than usual, the USPTO considers the word "merely descriptive" and doesn't want to award Apple exclusive use as part of the trademark.
Because of the problem with "mini," the USPTO is hesitant to move forward since the trademark could easily be confused with Apple's other, existing trademark for "iPad." That said, Apple now has the option to amend its application to include a disclaimer on the word "mini" and to explain why it needs a separate trademark for "iPad mini" in addition to "iPad." Apple was given a six month deadline from the original letter to submit a modified application, meaning it now has until July 24 to rework it and resubmit.