Cisco sues Apple over "iPhone" trademark infringement

Posted by Wolfgang Gruener

San Jose (CA) - Concerns that Cisco and Apple could clash over the use of the name "iPhone" for Apple's latest product appeared to be off the table yesterday as Cisco was reported to have offered Apple rights to use the name. Today, the situation has changed.

 


>> Slideshow: Apple's iPhone in pictures (16 pictures) ...


In fact, Cisco appeared to have been caught up in the excitement of the Apple CEO Jobs' iPhone presentation yesterday when the company said that it was confident to reach an agreement with the Apple almost immediately. "Given Apple's numerous requests for permission to use Cisco's iPhone trademark over the past several years and our extensive discussions with them recently it is our belief that with their announcement today, Apple intends to agree to the final document and public statement that were distributed to them last night and that addressed a few remaining items."

Which one will be the iPhone?

It turns out that those "few remaining items" may actually have been major items - at least major enough to convince both parties to risk a lawsuit. Cisco expected yesterday to receive a signed copy of the contract - the company did not provide details whether this was a trademark transferal or a licensing agreement - by midnight, and apparently, it didn't arrive.

Apple and Cisco iPhone

Cisco iPhone (left), Apple iPhone 

 

Mark Chandler, Cisco senior vice president and general counsel of the company said today that "Cisco entered into negotiations with Apple in good faith after Apple repeatedly asked permission to use Cisco's iPhone name. There is no doubt that Apple's new phone is very exciting, but they should not be using our trademark without our permission."

Cisco representatives did not return our calls to clarify this statement, but it is obvious that at least Cisco feels that an agreement over the use of the name has not been reached.

Cisco had launched, perhaps in a very calculated move, its first iPhone branded device on December 18 2006, an iPod-white Wi-Fi Skype phone that is marketed under the Linksys brand. Cisco has owned the "iPhone" since 1999, when the device was described as "computer hardware and software for providing integrated telephone communication with computerized global information networks." There has been a flurry of trademark activity over the name "iPhone", but Apple apparently never attempted to trademark the name. Apple's list of trademarks does not contain a single entry that directly refers to a cellular phone at this time Given this circumstance, we speculated in December that Apple's use of "iPhone" could merely be a working title or code-name.

At yesterday's keynote, Apple CEO Steve Jobs commented on the features of the iPhone by saying "boy did we patent it" - now it looks like the patent side is ok, but Apple may have forgotten to finalize the trademark portion. And it appears that Cisco is be ready to gamble: "Today's iPhone is not tomorrow's iPhone. The potential for convergence of the home phone, cell phone, work phone and PC is limitless, which is why it is so important for us to protect our brand," Chandler concluded.

Apple declined to comment on the suit.