By Evan Blass | December 29, 2010 11:50 AM
You know how we enjoy scouring the US Patent and Trademark Office for hints of future company products and plans, and today we turn our focus to some filings which may indicate upcoming e-book readers in Barnes and Noble’s Nook line. Powered by Android, the Nook family is currently composed of three members: the original Nook, 3G-less Nook WiFi, and Nook Color tablet. Well on the same day that the company — doing business as Fission Inc, perhaps to obfuscate its filings — applied for the Nook WiFi mark, it also sought protection on two other brands: “Nook Kids” and “Nook 2″ / “Nook2.” It shouldn’t be much of a surprise that the retailer is planning a followup to the original Nook as rival Amazon did with its Kindle (now on generation three), but we had originally thought that Nook Kids was just a children’s section of the digital bookstore; now, however, we have evidence that this may actually be a piece of hardware.
Barnes and Noble (or Fission) tends to be very descriptive in its filings — or at least it used to be. Prior to its most recent round of filings in October, in which it began listing both goods and services in the application descriptions, B&N used to only seek protection against goods when applying for hardware-specific marks. For example, the original Nook, along with the Nook WiFi, describe the product seeking protection as a “portable electronic apparatus for displaying, receiving, reading and storing downloadable electronic publications, namely, books, e-books, magazines, newspapers, text, images, digital web site content and digital media featuring music through wired and wireless Internet access, accessories therefor and instructional manuals, sold as a unit.” Both the Nook 2 and Nook Kids filings from June 8th employ the exact same description.
Now compare that writeup with similar ones for “Nook Study” and “Nook Smart,” which sound like they could be educational versions of the e-reader — except for the fact that they also list detailed services alongside the description of the goods, making it unlikely that these are pieces of hardware. Similarly, “Nook Cook,” a possible e-cookbook, only seeks protection against a “downloadable software application providing information on cooking, recipes, and related information in the field of food.”
Notably, in its latest hardware filing — for Nook Color — the company has taken a different route, listing both e-reader devices as well as the stores which sell the content and the online publication of said content. Also, when B&N submitted a second application later in the year for Nook Kids, this one looking to protect the stylized logo, it expanded the description to include a much longer list of goods, while also adding a section for the online service. We suspect that the retailer wanted to fill up its children’s content catalog before rolling out a dedicated device, but it’s also possible that plans changed in the four months between applications, and the Nook Kids reader was scrapped in favor of a content-only strategy.
Finally, Barnes and Noble may be implementing an in-store and online Nook customer service program called “Nooksellers.” The trademark filing, submitted earlier this month, seeks protection against “customer services, namely, providing customer service and product inquiry services via in-store kiosks, telephone and e-mail; customer service and retail and online retail store services featuring electronic books…” It goes on to list “a web site for users with specific informed recommendations of specific consumer products and services validated by the inputted preferences and social network of the user; providing a web site for users with exclusive personalized recommendations on books, electronic books, authors, book subject matter, book genres, music and digital media entertainment,” which seems to indicate a Netflix-like recommendation engine.
Update: We just noticed that while the “Nook2″ mark was published for opposition last month, Barnes and Noble never responded to a September 17th request to insert a disclaimer into the “Nook 2″ application. In other words, while Nook2 is well on its way to becoming a registered trademark, Nook 2 has been uncharacteristically stuck in limbo for several months, as these so-called outgoing actions from the USPTO almost always get responses within a few days. Therefore, we’re betting that Nook2, and not Nook 2, will be the name of the Nook sequel.