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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: If that's the case...
By masher2 on 1/12/2007 6:19:23 PM , Rating: 2
> "There is a reviewing attorney for trademark filings. Part of his/her job is to find conflicting trademarks...."

The conflict check is only within a given market, and the USPTO specifically informs each applicant that granting the registration does not imply the trademark is safe from challenge. In fact, the USPTO allows for a company or private citizen to directly challenge their granting of a trademark...without having to resort to court action.

Furthermore, the fact two marks may be deemed nonconflicting at a given point in time does not imply they are always nonconflicting. Markets may expand, products may change and start to overlap, or one trademark may become "famous"...a special designation with special rights and responsibilities.

IP law is complex. Don't debate it unless you know someone about it.

RE: If that's the case...
By hubajube on 1/12/2007 6:37:08 PM , Rating: 1
IP law is complex. Don't debate it unless you know someone about it.
Yes "massa", I's won't debate with you's anymore captain. Aye aye sir. Give me a break. I'll debate whatever I want to debate. Person to person communication can be complex. Don't speak to another person unless you know something about communication.

RE: If that's the case...
By sker on 1/12/2007 8:42:23 PM , Rating: 2
I signed up only to applaud your comment. Well said.

RE: If that's the case...
By masher2 on 1/13/2007 12:01:46 AM , Rating: 2
> "Yes "massa", I's won't debate with you's anymore captain. Aye aye sir. Give me a break. I'll debate whatever I want to debate...."

Then keep debating by all means. However, several prominent trademark attorneys have already stated their agreement with Apple's position. I'm merely trying to explain to you their reasoning. Feel free to continue disagreeing if you wish, but the facts are rather clear.

“So far we have not seen a single Android device that does not infringe on our patents." -- Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith
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