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You can dig up some interesting information at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, if you know where to look, and The Verge has spotted something interesting filed by Google about one month ago. Google's trademark for an app called "Shortwave" describes it as "computer software for use in listening to digital audio files" for mobile devices and PCs, with a special call-out for being able to share links to content within the app.

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This is a fairly vague description, and it customarily takes 90 days for the Patent Office to evaluate a trademark application, so it may be some time before we get more concrete details -- and it's possible that the application will be denied.

Application denials have happened to Google before. In 2010, it was denied a trademark for "Nexus One," which emerged a month after the filing as the name of an Android phone made by HTC, developed under the code name "HTC Passion."

For Apple's part, it's no stranger to the trademark application struggle, having to negotiate with Cisco in 2007 for the rights to the word "iPhone."

The filing for Shortwave is currently at the New Application Processing stage, and it's credited to Google LLC, which is technically "organized" in Delaware, a popular state in which to legally establish a company because of its business-friendly laws.

Despite the dearth of juicy details, a closer look at the filing indicates that it's filed in the ITU (Intent to Use) category, and no others. According to the Patent Office, "If you have not used your mark in commerce yet, but have a good faith intention to do so in the future, you can file an application to register your trademark or service mark under an intent-to-use (ITU) filing basis."

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When filing a trademark in the ITU category, the applicant is granted six months upon receipt of a Notice of Allowance from the Patent Office to actually make material use of it, so there's a real clock that's already ticking. As we saw with the Nexus One phone in 2010, sometimes the product attached to the trademark is right about to hit store shelves.

But in 2018, it's apparently much harder to keep leaks from spreading, so the fact that we have little more than a trademark filing indicates that Shortwave is not waiting in the wings just yet.

If Google doesn't attach this Shortwave trademark to a product in the allotted time, they may lose the right to use it and must come up with a different name. This system helps prevent people from buying up hordes of trademarked words and phrases and then selling them to the highest bidder. It also establishes a concrete time frame for when we can expect to see a trademark attached to an actual product.

Google describes the product to The Verge as "a very early experiment," so we are probably looking at the farther end of the time frame that's enforced by the Patent Office. Either way, filing an ITU also gives the applicant priority when it comes time to file for a Statement of Use, the latter of which grants legal reinforcement to the owner's claim on the trademark.

The takeaways

  1. Google has filed a trademark application for "Shortwave," which it described in the filing as "computer software for use in listening to digital audio files" for mobile devices and PCs.
  2. Google has filed this trademark in the Intent to Use category, which gives them six months to attach it to a product, starting from when the trademark is approved. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office customarily takes 90 days to evaluate an application.

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Tom is a senior editor at Download.com.