Apple has filed a trademark for “iWatch” with Japan’s patent office, seeking to protect the name it has coined and adding credence to rumors that the company is developing a smartwatch, according to a June 3 filing made public last week (spotted by Bloomberg News).

UPDATE: According to a 9to5 Mac report, Apple has filed a trademark for “iWatch” with Mexico’s “Institute of Industrial Property”, following filings in Japan and Russia. The Mexico filing was made public in recent days, but the request was originally submitted on June 3 – the same day on which Apple had filed for a trademark in Japan. 9to5 Mac has since updated its story to reflect trademark filings in Turkey and Columbia as well. Another report from Macrumors said Apple has also added on to its trademarking spree by filing for one in Taiwan.

It was previously reported that Apple has a team of “about 100 product designers” working on a new device, similar to a wristwatch, that can perform many of the tasks currently dominated by the iPhone and iPad – which could include the ability to make phone calls, identify incoming callers and check map routes. It was also said to include a pedometer for counting steps and a number of sensors for tracking other health-related data.

Apple’s move to protect the “iWatch” name comes amid a surge in interest by tech firms in developing smartwatches. Its rival Samsung confirmed in March that it was developing a smartwatch, though there was no mention of specific product information or a launch date.

In April, Microsoft was tipped to be building a touchscreen watch device, while last week Google also jumped into the fray, with reports saying it was developing an Android-powered smartwatch among other products. Last week, Taiwanese firm Foxconn also unveiled a smartwatch that can be connected wirelessly to an iPhone.

While the industry-wide race to develop smartwatches heats up, Sony recently announced a follow up to its SmartWatch in the form of the SmartWatch 2, which is expected to go on sale around September.

Pebble kicked off the watch craze last year with a blockbuster Kickstarter project that raised over $10 million. It began shipping its first devices to backers earlier this year.

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