Recently, popular online publication ran a story that Apple Inc., is actually the company that sent requests for trademark status of "Thunderbolt" brand. This technology was originally known as Intel Light Peak and was meant to offer ultra high-speed connectivity using optical cable (100Gbps).
However in 2009, Apple contacted Intel to modify the Light Peak technology to push 10 Watts of power as well, and shift from optical cable to copper - as optical cable does not support transmission of electric power. Two giants worked together and jointly launched copper version of Thunderbolt with the refreshed Mac notebooks.
Even though Thunderbolt carried "TM" in all of Apple and Intel's communications, as well as Intel blue colored logo - it turned out that Intel was not the trademark carrier, which is odd given Intel's previous history with trademarks (long standing joke between IT staff in CIA was when Intel is going to sue them for their constnat use of word "intel"). We contacted the company and got an answer from Dave Salvator, Senior Communications Manager at Intel.
"As part of our collaboration with Apple, they did some of the initial trademark filings. Intel has full rights to the Thunderbolt trademark now and into the future. The Thunderbolt name will be used going forward on all platforms, irrespective of operating system."
Furthermore, we were interested to hear what will happen with the future versions of Light Peak/Thunderbolt that will use optical connectivity. Dave elaborated that Intel is working hard on designing the optical version of the technology:
"The (Thunderbolt optical) cable could carry power in the same cable (running next to optical part of cable), but exact product plans are still to be announced."
In a nutshell, Apple filed for the original trademark and is now transferring that trademark to Intel. At the same time, Apple will continue to have unrestricted use of the technology. 3rd party implementations such as Sony's desire to use USB Connector instead of DisplayPort one and the eventual change of technology branding (Sony's IEEE1394 a.k.a. Firewire implementation was named i.LINK) will have to be ironed out as the time passes by.
Update May 20, 2011, 11:05AM UTC/GMT - Following our original story, Intel contacted us again in order to clarify their own statements. We've highlighted the updated part in the last paragraph, which is the most important aspect of the story. Again, we thank to Mr. Salvator for getting back to us so quickly.