Accessory maker Spigen claims Andy Rubin's Essential is infringing on its trademark


At this point you've probably heard of Essential, Andy Rubin's latest tech startup, right? If you haven't, here's the gist of it: there's a new player in the smartphone, smart home, and accessory game, and it's one that isn't afraid to put some new ideas on the table right from the start. And, in fact, the company itself is surprisingly new as well – the first news about it started flying just this January.

This fact, however, creates a bit of a problem for Essential, who, as it turns out, doesn't actually own the trademark to its own name. Two filings, one just for "Essential", the other for "Essential Products", have both been refused by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) due to possible confusion with a 2016 trademark granted to accessory maker Spigen. That is, Spigen already makes and sells products under the Essential name, and has done so for longer than Andy Rubin's company has existed.

(Side note: the USPTO has listed another possible source of trademark confusion: a Sony Music-owned record label named (surprise!) Essential Records, though the case there is considerably thinner.)

A Spigen spokesperson has confirmed the company's intention to take action against Essential. A cease and desist letter sent June 1 gives Rubin's company until July 15 to respond, or otherwise the accessory maker threatens to "take any and all actions required to protect Spigen's marks."


But before you accuse Spigen of being greedy, consider the following: United States trademark laws are structured in such a way that the owner of a trademark is forced to dispute any possible infringement, or risk the trademark be marked as abandoned or generic. And while a few courts have taken the exact opposite stance – that failure to police a trademark has no effect on its validity – most companies, as one might imagine, are unwilling to take their chances.

But as for the other side of the argument: Essential seems to have clearly been aware of the problems concerning its trademark, but decided against taking any action before its product announcement. This could mean one of two things: either Rubin and co. are confident they have a case against Spigen's claim to the name, or they are simply banking on settling after the fact. In any case, the company doesn't seem particularly concerned with the case, as an official statement sent to Android Police says:


As for possible outcomes, there are a few: Essential could, in theory, sell its products under a different brand name (extremely unlikely). Or, it could fight Spigen's claim on the Essential name, which is a possibility, given the company's statement (though the fact that it wants to sell phone accessories under its name will surely be problematic). What is most likely to happen, however, is the two companies simply settling – either by Spigen licensing its brand name to Essential, or outright selling its ownership of the trademark.

source: USPTO (1, 2) via Android Police

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11 Comments

1. Plasticsh1t

Posts: 3094; Member since: Sep 01, 2014

Well this is bad for a new company. Let's see how will they settle this. We need more competition.

2. JasontheVeteran

Posts: 51; Member since: Jun 05, 2017

Well, one would know that you can't trademark a common word such as Essential. Essentially Spigen has no case. The Patent & Trademark office will review the issued trademark for "Essential" and most likely revoke the Trademark for such. This will either go to court on the grounds of a common use word and Spigen's case will be tossed out, or everyone will rush to trademark common words such as Apple, Banana, Orange, etc.

4. trublackrose

Posts: 45; Member since: Apr 14, 2015

Actually, you can Trademark common words and phrases. You can't Copyright common words though. Apple owns the Trademark for Apple for example. Another example is that episode of Nightmare Kitchen where the lady trademarked the word Hun and the city she was in nearly put her out of business over it.

5. AxelFoley unregistered

They'll work it out as long as the money is right.

6. AxelFoley unregistered

Umm.....Apple Corps received $526 million from Apple Computer (now Apple, inc). Apple inc now owns the trademark to "Apple". Their court case against the Beatles over the "APPLE" trademark was pretty common knowledge. I'm not really sure where you're going with your examples.

8. Mantion

Posts: 3; Member since: May 30, 2011

I call dibs on Covfefe

3. BuffaloSouce

Posts: 1261; Member since: May 01, 2017

When I hear essential, both Spigen and Andy Rubin are the furthest things that come to mind.

7. Mantion

Posts: 3; Member since: May 30, 2011

That is super s**tty. I must have bought a dozen Spigen cases in my life. They were my goto company. Not to be a drama queen but this stuff pisses me off. Even when Spigen loses in court and has to pay attorney fees, i still won't buy another Spigen product. Shame on them and anyone who sides with them.

9. TechieXP1969

Posts: 14967; Member since: Sep 25, 2013

I don't see how this is confusing. A word like "essential" is generic and should have never been allowed to be "trademarked" to begin with. Spigen makes cases, they don't make hardware. The accessories may or could be confusing per se. Maybe Spigen will make an Essential Essential for the Essential..lol

10. zenun12

Posts: 205; Member since: Oct 31, 2016

What they mean generic is when that trademarked word is commonly associated with a certain product. Such as Aspirin, it's now a generic word, but before it became a generic word, it was trademarked by BAYER.

11. chhau

Posts: 12; Member since: Jun 01, 2017

This is Pied Piper all over again...

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