August 17, 2017
Amazon’s Alexa runs rings around the USPTO
Amazon’s Alexa runs rings around the USPTO
If, like me, you love your tech, you will be all too familiar with Amazon’s Echo by now. The Echo devices have taken the market by storm and are among the most popular of home automation devices, making use of Amazon’s intuitive Alexa assistant. Naturally, Amazon has sought to protect its brand in the Echo devices in various ways, including through numerous trade mark filings for ALEXA as both word and composite marks. However, the Alexa assistant is not the only thing the tech giant trying is trying to protect. Last year Amazon filed a trade mark application before the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) for the various iterations of the blue rings which appear on the top of the Echo devices (depicted below). Amazon faced some initial push-back from the USTPO, with them claiming that the marks did not function as a trade marks and are simply ‘loading wheels’ which are commonplace in the industry. Amazon managed to overcome this refusal by arguing that their blue rings/wheels actually show that action is occurring, whilst regular ‘loading wheels’ on the market are an indication of waiting for an action to occur. This argument appeared satisfy the examiner and enabled Amazon to overcome the refusal, with the application being approved and published on 24 July 2017 (although it has since been withdrawn for a review query). It will be interesting to see if this application does find its way to publication again, and whether third parties will look to oppose it if it does. This application by Amazon for a non-standard device trade mark is a good example of the way that companies are having to adapt to ensure that their brand is adequately protected in the current market. It is interesting as it provides an insight as to what within their brand (in this case the Echo devices) is important to them – this is a question that all brand owners should consider if they are looking at obtaining IP protection for their brand.
Trademarks /  Tech

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