Why we still don’t know iPhone 8’s real name

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Jamaica
Jamaica helps Apple keep its plans secret.
Photo: Apple

Here’s one reason we still don’t know whether the next iPhone will be called the iPhone X, iPhone 8 or something else entirely. A loophole that allowed intrepid investigators to dig up secret Apple product names has been closed.

It’s like Apple loves secrets or something!


While Apple sometimes slips up and accidentally releases future plans for the world to see, the company takes many steps to make sure you don’t know its upcoming lineup.

Apple sure loves Jamaica

As we’ve written before, Apple takes advantage of interesting pieces of international legal minutiae to keep its future plans secret. This means filing trademark paperwork about its upcoming products in places like Jamaica.

Why? The Caribbean country doesn’t easily provide would-be snoopers with a way to search databases about newly filed trademarks and other product details.

Searchers could get around this, however, by physically visiting (or having someone else visit) the Jamaica Intellectual Property Office in Kingston. Provided they had a Jamaican address to receive the results, and were willing to wait a fixed length of time, they could find information about Apple’s plans.

Digging for Apple product names

QZ
Apple sure like its secrecy.
Photo: QZ

This is what a Dublin-area attorney named Brian Conroy did last year. He paid a Jamaican law firm to search for information. The digging revealed the names iPhone 7, iPhone 7 Plus, Touch Bar and AirPods — with the latter two being names that were new to Apple.

Such tactics may not work anymore, though. Since Conroy’s discovery, the Jamaican trademark office has made it harder to search for product names. In new rules written about by Bloomberg:

“[P]roprietary searches and date range searches will no longer be available using these public computers. Proprietor searches will be performed by the office upon request and payment of the requisite fees, with only information on published and registered marks being provided.”

While seemingly only a minor change, this means it’s no longer possible to search for “any applications filed by Apple in the last X months.” Instead, you need to know the names of products you don’t yet know the name of. That might work fine for an iPhone 8 (if that’s what it’s called), but it’s less effective when you’re trying to discover the name of the next AirPods.

Whether Apple was in any way responsible for the change isn’t clear. But the company certainly won’t be complaining about it!