It seems that the rumours are true. Apple will be launching a mini iPad in the run up to Christmas. Undoubtably the timing of its launch will be to disrupt the promotion of Amazon’s long awaited new Kindle Fire tablet in the UK. In fact the whole market seems to be going tablet crazy with the Google Nexus currently leading the “must have” gadget charts. It seems that these three companies will spend the next few years trying to outdo each other in terms of hardware.
As we have seen with the launch of the iPad and more recently the iPhone 5, the public will go to huge lengths to be one of the first to own these products. Queues will build up outside Apple stores around the world days before the launch, with a number of shoppers simply looking to make a fast buck by putting the new product onto Ebay.
However, it seems that Apple may have one more battle on their hands before the launch. One of the biggest winners in the news of a new iPad are Ballade. Never heard of them? Nor had hundreds of thousands of people prior to the news of an iPadmini leaking out. But as soon as the news hit the streets, many of these people, including yours truly, would have gone to iPadmini.com to hopefully get a sneak preview. Except ipadmini.com is owned by Ballade who provide “geo targeted ads based on the IP address of users.” Hmm, hardly “7 inches of pure joy” as one reporter published today (you have to be careful where you use that phrase I would suggest). Ballade have owned this name since 2005, when the iPad was probably still a twinkle in Steve Jobs’s eye. Search for miniipad.com instead? Well, you will get a 404 error but on inspection of the WHOIS you will see this one has been registered since 2010 although in this instance the registrant details are masked.
The rules on cybersquatting are quite clear. A name has to be registered in bad faith and intending to profit from the goodwill of a trademark belonging to someone else. In the case of ipadmini.com there is clearly no bad faith nor original intention to profit from goodwill. Apple do not have a legal leg to stand on with regard to this name, although Ballade of course may entertain an approach from Apple to purchase the name.
Issues like this are a massive problem for brand owners who are looking at pushing their product envelope. Branding and domain names need to go hand in hand – the earlier a concept, brand, company or slogan is thought of, the more important it is for them to register their domain names. An investment of a few pence per day today, can save massive headaches tomorrow and brand owners should think very carefully about their IP portfolio.
Still, doesn’t stop me wanting to get my hands on one of the new iPad Mini’s. Now where is my sleeping bag and thermos?
Written by Stuart Fuller, Director of Communications, NetNames
18 October 2012