Multiple international trademark applications for an "AIRPODS" audio accessory, filed by what appears to be a shell company, suggest Apple might be working to bring a wireless version of its EarPods headphones to market.
A company based out of Delaware named Entertainment in Flight, LLC, filed the AIRPODS (potentially written as "AirPods") trademark application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Sept. 22, weeks after setting up shop at the Corporation Trust Center, reports MacRumors. The firm does not appear to be directly tied to Apple, though its recent incorporation and subsequent lack of activity leave room for speculation.
Apple's tactic of setting up shell corporations to keep secret projects out of the public eye is well documented. Ahead of iPad's launch, for example, Apple registered the acronym I.P.A.D. under British dummy corporation "IP Application Development" (IPAD Ltd.).
As for AirPods, Entertainment in Flight designated the mark under International Trademark Class 9, a wide-ranging category covering electronics and scientific apparatus. The filing narrows down registration to U.S. classes 021, 023, 026, 036, 038, noting products and goods as:
Audio components and accessories; sound recording and reproducing apparatus; digital video recorders and players; remote control apparatus; audio speakers; earphones, headphones; microphones; voice recording and recognition apparatus; radios, radio transmitters, and receivers; handheld digital electronic devices and software related thereto; wireless communication devices for voice, data or image transmission; electrical and electronic connectors, couplers, wires, cables, chargers, docks, docking stations, interfaces, and adapters for use with all of the aforesaid goods
The document cites a Jamaican trademark application from March as AirPods' priority date. Jamaica is one of Apple's favorite jurisdictions in which to file, as evidenced by recent applications for "iWatch" and "Thunderbolt." Lending further credence to the theory are Entertainment in Flight's international AirPods applications which, as MacRumors notes, were handled by law firms known to do similar business with Apple.
With Apple Watch, wireless audio has taken on a more significant role in Apple's product lineup. The company already owns multiple patents for potential hardware iterations, including noise canceling and bone conduction technology, but has yet to bring a wireless headset to market.
While Apple subsidiary Beats fields a variety of Bluetooth-enabled headphones, Apple made it clear when it bought the company that there would be no hardware commingling. The iPhone maker currently markets two headphone versions in the free-with-purchase EarPods and dual-driver In-ear Headphones, leaving room for a wireless AirPods option.