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Judge may rule that the term "iPhone" is too generic for one company to own

A day after Apple announced the iPhone, Cisco Systems quickly filed a lawsuit against Apple, claiming that the computer company infringed on its trademark. True enough, Cisco's consumer arm Linksys had released a product called the iPhone earlier than Apple, and the trademark name "iPhone" had been owned by Cisco for several years already. Despite all this, Apple decided to launch its mobile communications device under the iPhone name anyway -- a move declared as extremely bold by many analysts.

In a report, Cisco mentioned that Apple had repeatedly approached it for permission to use the iPhone name, but no solid agreement had ever come to realization. Now, however, it could be possible that both companies will be allowed to use the iPhone name -- and so would everyone else, says a trademark expert.

According to Brian Banner, a seasoned attorney dealing with intellectual property and trademarks at Rothwell Figg, the "iPhone" name may actually be generic enough that a judge will rule it usable by both Apple and Cisco. The ruling will be under condition however, that a company name be attached to the term "iPhone," like "Apple iPhone" or "Cisco iPhone." Banner mentioned that the term may also be deemed generic enough to use by any company.

"They must have figured the reward would be greater than the risk. They probably did a lot of homework before calling it the iPhone and figured that the registration Cisco has is not a serious impediment," says Banner. But this is definitely not what Cisco thinks. Cisco representatives indicated that it will vigorously defend what it owns. Apple on the other hand disagrees with Cisco. "We believe that Cisco's U.S. trademark is tenuous at best," said Apple representative Katie Cotton. "We are the first company to use the iPhone name for a cell phone and we're confident we will prevail."

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RE: I honestly hope apple loses
By Master Kenobi on 1/12/2007 1:14:49 PM , Rating: 2
Except that iPhone was trademarked back in '96. Before the iMac came to market.

RE: I honestly hope apple loses
By blanger on 1/12/2007 1:48:53 PM , Rating: 2
I guess the question I am raising is what about the cost of building the brand. Until last week I had never heard the term iphone. Additionally cisco did not buy the trademark until after apples "I" products were launch. But here is the question if you hear the term iphone or icomputer or ipalm which company would you think created that product?

If something "just do it" for example becomes sonomus with a brand sholud that be trademarkable. Additionally Martha Stewart should be able to call here next cook book MS recipies. MicroSoft has built the brand and products using the acroynum MS so maybe a small or large business should leverage that brand.

The question come down to does the majority of the public see the "i" acroynum as a part of apple if it does then trademarked or not cisco is infringing on apple's brand

RE: I honestly hope apple loses
By masher2 on 1/12/2007 2:04:49 PM , Rating: 2
Just FYI, Intel had trademarked the lowercase "i" in conjunction with semiconductors back in the 1980s. It was eventually declared overly broad, and struck down.

And, by the way, Martha Stewart could indeed sell cookbooks labelled "MS". If she tried to sell computer software under that name, however, she may well run into difficulties.

RE: I honestly hope apple loses
By blanger on 1/12/2007 2:24:09 PM , Rating: 2
I guess what I am getting at is that the smaller business gets harassed. If Martha Stewart or any one else tried to put a cook book out on CD or with a comapnion CD call MS receipies MicroSoft would sue and if a small unknown publisher tried it they would be crushed like a bug. Trademark laws are made and used by big companies to stop competition or in this case to force another to your will.

I find it amusing the cisco does not want money they be happy to share the name if apple would agree to a partnership.

But either way apple and to some extent cisco wins because in the end all the press is worth more than the name. Working in marketing and running a business you can not pay for this kind of press and discussion.

We are all talking about apple and cisco and that will suit them just fine.
Who knows maybe the partnership is already in place and this is just good marketing

RE: I honestly hope apple loses
By masher2 on 1/12/2007 2:31:03 PM , Rating: 2
There are far more cases of a large firm being sued by a small company or an individual. Suits tend to go after those with deep pockets.

One thing people don't understand is that, in the case of trademark law, companies are legally required to defend their trademark, lest they lose it. A company can't simply choose to ignore a particular case of infringement, lest some other company use that against them to remove their ownership entirely. This is why you so often see large companies suing for what you may feel is arbitrary, minor infringement. They're not looking for money or trying to harrass anyone....they're merely defending their own property against loss.

RE: I honestly hope apple loses
By MobileZone on 1/12/2007 6:06:05 PM , Rating: 2
What about iPaqs? Apple should ban them?

"We are going to continue to work with them to make sure they understand the reality of the Internet.  A lot of these people don't have Ph.Ds, and they don't have a degree in computer science." -- RIM co-CEO Michael Lazaridis
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