Apple Files for 'iWatch' Patent in Japan: Report

An Apple iWatch is no longer the stuff of rumors. Japan's patent office says Apple has filed for an "iWatch" trademark.

Apple has filed to trademark "iWatch" in Japan, pushing a product that rumors and unnamed sources have insisted is coming a step closer to being tangible.

According to Reuters and the Wall Street Journal, Japan's patent office made information about Apple's June 3 patent application public on June 27.

An official with the patent office told Reuters that the patent would cover computers, computer peripherals and watches, and that it is unknown how long the patent process will take.

In February, The New York Times reported that Apple is working on a curved glass smart watch with its manufacturing partner Foxconn. The report said the watch will feature an organic LED display, run Apple's iOS operating system and be capable of communicating with Apple's other hardware.

In April, Topeka Capital analyst Brian White added to the anticipated Apple ecosystem, telling investors that Apple is also working on an "iRing," an accessory that will communicate with the Apple watch and other devices, as well as control the iTV that Apple is also rumored to be working on.

"The interaction between 'iTV' and making phone calls will be an important feature of this experience, while the 'iWatch' and the 'iRing' will provide increased mobility around the home, supplanting the need to carry a smartphone around the house," wrote White.

Apple won't confirm whether it is working on any of these devices, though CEO Tim Cook has acknowledged that they're areas of interest.

Speaking to NBC's Brian Williams in December 2012, Cook called television "a market that has been left behind" and an "area of intense interest" to Apple.

And at the AllThingsD event in May, Cook talked about the wearable device space, saying that "the whole sensor field is going to explode." He also said he finds it more likely that people would wear a watch than glasses, which are more obtrusive—and of course the route that Google has taken.

Cook added that the better products are the ones that tend to do only one thing. "It's an area ripe for exploration," said Cook.

An Apple watch, television and ring could help Apple at a time when it finds itself in the unusual position of defending its brand as the cutting-edge market leader and its market share against Samsung, now the market leader in smartphones and mobile phones.

"Sentiment is bad. Make that horrible," investment firm Raymond James told investors July 1, in regard to Apple.

Samsung Executive Vice President Lee Young Hee confirmed March 19 that Samsung has been working on a watch "for so long."

"We are working very hard to get ready for it," he told Bloomberg. "We are preparing products for the future, and the watch is definitely one of them."

While Apple is rumored to be working in the flexible display space—and a March patent filed with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office for a "flexible display assembly enclosed within [a] transparent housing" seems to confirm as much—it's Samsung, again, that has already made an announcement. It introduced its bendable Youm brand at the Consumer Electronics Show in January.

"Youm doesn't just bend the rules of display technologies," Samsung President of Device Solutions Stephen Woo said on stage, offering a demonstration, "it completely rewrites them."

Between 2011 and 2015, Researchmoz expects the global wearable wireless sensor market to grow 110 percent, it said in a June 30 report, and firm ABI Research expects 1.2 million smart watches to be sold this year alone.

"Smart watches that replicate the functionality of a mobile handset or smartphone are not yet commercially feasible, though the technologies are certainly being prepared," ABI Senior Analyst Joshua Flood said in an April report.

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