How Apple uses Jamaica to keep its secrets under wraps

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Jamaica
The Jamaica-branded Apple Watch strap.
Photo: Apple

It’s well known that Apple, like many multinationals, uses a variety of non-U.S. countries to help reduce its tax bill. However, what is less well known is that the company also takes advantage of some interesting pieces of international legal minutiae to keep its future plans secret.

In particular, Apple is a big fan of Jamaica when it comes to filing trademark paperwork about its upcoming products — since Jamaica doesn’t easily provide would-be snoopers with a way to search databases about newly-filed information.

Jamaica
Apple sure like its secrecy.
Photo: QZ

According to an interesting article from Quartz:

“The filings made overseas aren’t … actually secret — they’re just not easy to access if you can’t go in person. For instance, 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.”

Filing in Jamaica gives Apple the ability to hold off on revealing information about upcoming products until they’re ready to be unveiled. Specifically, it gives an extra six months during which time Apple can file it US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) trademark, with the original Jamaican application showing a priority claim on Apple’s part.

It’s fascinating labyrinthine — and the kind of thing few companies would bother with. Unless those were the kind of companies whose every trademark and patent was ruthlessly pored over in the press, that is!