If You Want to Dig Up Apple's Secrets, Go to Jamaica

By Sophie Kleeman on at

When it comes to Apple, Jamaica knows all. Quartz has an interesting report out today about Apple’s habit of filing trademark applications for new products, including macOS and the Apple Watch, in the Caribbean country. The reason? Secrecy, of course.

Jamaica is one of several countries where trademark databases aren’t easily accessible online. That means Apple’s top-secret products can stay under the radar for longer. Quartz reports:

The Jamaica Intellectual Property Office allows visitors to search filings in person at its office in Kingston. People can also ask the office to search filings for them, but a Jamaican address is required to receive the results, and the process takes three weeks. A lawyer in Jamaica, however, can be appointed to perform the search, the office told Quartz. It said it has no current plans to put its filings database online.

The idea is to give hyper-competitive companies like Apple a head start. They eventually file trademarks for their gadgets in the United States — in databases that are much more easily searchable — but the earlier filings in places like Jamaica allow them to claim the rights without letting the cat out of the bag. Since it’s less likely that someone would travel to Jamaica in person, the companies get a little extra time (about six months, according to Quartz) to keep their new products hidden.

And Apple isn’t the only one. Large firms like Amazon, Google, and Microsoft apparently also engage in this kind of legal hoodwinking, largely because they’re all loaded and can certainly afford the cost. However, Apple pulls the Jamaica trick more often than most. Countries like Trinidad and Tobago, Tonga, and South Africa are also popular trademark destinations, according to Alt Legal, which produces intellectual property software. Google, for its part, is apparently a big fan of Tonga.

While Apple’s affection for Jamaica isn’t entirely new — Mac Rumors highlighted it back in 2013 — it’s nonetheless a nifty look at the lengths to which tech mammoths will go in order to protect their precious ideas. [Quartz]