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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 (blog) on 1/15/2007 7:45:29 AM , Rating: 2
> "I said nothing about the majority or popularity..."

You didn't have to. If the majority of people believe something to be true, then that majority certainly won't pass a law against stating it, now will they? Popular speech is always protected by the mob itself...it doesn't need special legal protection. Only unpopular speech does.

If you don't defend speech that you personally do not agree with, then you don't believe in free speech. Period.

> "Keyword there harm..."

Exactly. And the touchstone for judging speech is in how a "reasonable person" would react to it. If you shout fire in a crowded theatre, a reasonable person would attempt to flee to an exit. This causes the potential for harm.

However, if you say to a reasonable person that Québécoise are less intelligent than other Canadians, a reasonable person merely laughs. The fact that some unreasonable person might agree, then be further motivated to go on a killing spree in Montreal, is irrelevent. An opinion by itself causes no harm...and unpopular opinions must be protected, else free speech itself is meaningless.


RE: If that's the case...
By devbreak on 1/19/2007 6:45:42 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
An opinion by itself causes no harm...and unpopular opinions must be protected, else free speech itself is meaningless.


But free speech itself IS meaningless. Freedom is by definition neither good nor evil - it is the ability do either. Thus it is a form of power just the same as other rather abstract forms of power, such as money or respect. It is a tool, and whether it is good or bad (or indeed even meaningful) is in the hands of the wielder. This must sound rather provocative to a citizen of a country that was founded with liberty as its highest ideal, but bear with me. (I'm guessing that you're American considering how well-versed you are in American trademark law)

My point is that freedom of speech is not a silver bullet. It is not a goal in itself, but rather a means to an end - and that end is a "reasonable" society (I do realize how arbitrary this term is). The primary function of free speech is to allow the people (or journalists) to criticize the government. This works as a safeguard against our society becoming a totalitarian, censoring system like North Korea or China. That safeguard makes sense and should be protected - but that is all it is, a safeguard.

The same holds for democracy - for example Hitler was democratically elected (feel free to invoke Godwin's Law here, but Holocaust was already brought up as an example). The primary strength of democracy is it's usual inefficiency - it helps maintain a relative status quo until the next election, so we don't "screw up" too much at a time.

Clearly our "ideals" such as free speech or democracy are not failsafe - they do not guarantee a reasonable society by themselves. If we hold these "ideals" above reproach (e.g. "then you don't believe in free speech") then we close our eyes to their shortcomings, and eventually they WILL fail. Holding any ideology above reproach, whether it is liberty, communism, religion or anything else, is the hallmark of a true fanatic, and fanatics are the kinds of people that make concentration camps or fly planes into buildings.

With freedom comes responsibility, and it up to us as a society to decide whether to intervene when people do not live up to that responsibility. The issue is not black and white - it is an oversimplification to believe it is.


"We can't expect users to use common sense. That would eliminate the need for all sorts of legislation, committees, oversight and lawyers." -- Christopher Jennings

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