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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 Terrin on 1/12/2007 10:05:14 PM , Rating: 0
The issue is not as simple as you suggest. First, unlike with a copyright, one does not own a "trademark." Instead, one owns the right to use a trademark. That right is contingent on the party abiding by certain rules. For instance, unlike with copyright, to keep a trademark you 1) have to actually use, or intend to use, the Trademark, 2) the right to use the Trademark cannot already belong to somebody else, and 3) the Trademark cannot be a generic term in realtion to the product you are selling (e.g. Apple, Inc., to sell Apples). With a copyright, you do not have to do anything, and still maintain the rights assocaited with copyright (until they expire at lease).

It is also important to understand that Trademarks are supposed to be primarly about protecting consumers by giving them s means to identify the source of goods.

Here Cisco did not create the Trademark "iPhone." Apple fans, and the media, coined the name in response to their desires that Apple create a phone (do a Google search). Since, Apple uses the name "i" 'in many of its products (for instance, the "iMac, iLife, iWorks, and iCEO), they called the wished for phone the "iPhone."

Infogear is the first company to trademark the name "iPhone." Interestingly enough, its founders used to work for Apple and were familar with Apple's naming convention. Nonetheless, Ciso bought Infogear, and thus the right to use "iPhone." The problem is Cisco then sat on the Trademark for years without releasing a product using that name. That is not allowed under Trademark law. You must use your Trademark, or you lose the right to use it. This is because as a policy matter we do not want people registering all the good names, hoarding them, and then forcing people to buy the Trademarks.

Furthermore, there are other companies that have used the name iPhone. Complicating the matter even more is that if a company registers a Trademark in another country (provided it is a signatory to the appropraite Treaty), it is possible that the company owns the Trademark on a world scale (at least in countries that signed the treaty).

Accordingly, this issue is not as straight forward as "well Cisco owns the Trademark." It is possible that Cisco lost the right to use the trademark and that Apple applied for the right to use the trademark in another country, thus securing the world rights. In fact, Cisco's Trademark is currently being challenged as being abaondoned in the Trademark Office.

Also, Apple arguably has a Trademark in all related products that use an "i" before the name of the product. Apple, afterall, started the whole "i" naming convention. For instance, McDonalds own a trademark is the "Mc" before a product name. It has stopped companies from naming their businesses things such as "McSleep." (a proposed name for a cheap hotel change).

My over all point is this: Apple has an arguement that Cisco lost its rights to use the name because 1) it abondoned the trademark, and 2) since that time other compnies, including Apple have applied to use the name. .

Final thought, Cisco naming its device the "iPhone" is what is confusing to consumers. Consumers are the ones that coined the name for an Apple product they wished for. It seems inapproprate, if not necessary illegal, that another company can come around and highjack the name for its own use. In my mind, Cisco is the bad guy.

RE: I honestly hope apple loses
By Chillin1248 on 1/13/2007 2:25:51 PM , Rating: 4
Except you whole arguement goes out the window when you realize the fact that the "iPhone" was trademarked in 1996, before any Apple "i" series products.

So then I guess you reason the Apple is the one who hijacked the "i" brand then.

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