Apple might be famous for its ability to patent rounded corners and the letter 'i', but it looks like whole words are off-limits to it. The body that rules on patents in the US, the Patents and Trademarks Office, has finally got round to ruling on Apple's application to trademark 'iPad Mini', and they've put their foot down in a decidedly firm and anti-Apple way.

The ruling states that because 'Mini' is "descriptive of a feature" of the product, it can't form part of the trademarked name:

"The term “MINI” in the applied for mark is also descriptive of a feature of applicant’s product. Specifically, the attached evidence shows this wording means “something that is distinctively smaller than other members of its type or class”

More interestingly, however, the ruling also seems to state that 'iPad' can't be trademarked, because the 'i' stands for internet, and is therefore also just descriptive:

When a mark consists of this prefix coupled with a descriptive word or term for Internet-related goods and/or services, then the entire mark may be considered merely descriptive.

This could lead to some rather interesting arguments, since 'iPad' -- along with rounded rectangles and the infamous bounce-scrolling -- is already a registered trademark in the US. Still, either way it's nice to see some element of the intellectual property administration standing up to Apple's attempt to patent the known universe. Now, let's hope the UK trademark people have equal backbone. [Forbes via TechEye]