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Cisco Sues Apple Over iPhone Trademark 556

Posted by samzenpus
from the that-didn't-take-long dept.
lucabrasi999 writes "It appears that Apple may be running out of items that they can prefix with the letter "i". Cisco is suing Apple over trademark infringement. Cisco claims to own the rights to the "iPhone" trademark since they purchased Infogear in 2000. Infogear filed for the rights to the trademark in 1996."
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Cisco Sues Apple Over iPhone Trademark

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  • by grapeape (137008) <mpope7@@@kc...rr...com> on Wednesday January 10, 2007 @08:33PM (#17549328) Homepage
    http://www.comwave.net/CDN/iPhone/index.htm [comwave.net]

    The sad thing is that Apple was the reason why everyone started adding i to everything...if I was Jobs I'd just call it the Ipod Phone Edition and tell Cisco to bite it.
  • by alain94040 (785132) on Wednesday January 10, 2007 @08:34PM (#17549342) Homepage
    From Cisco's web site yesterday: "SAN JOSE Calif., January 9, 2007 - 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. We expect to receive a signed agreement today."

    I guess someone at Apple didn't sign on the dotted line last night. What could Cisco possibly be asking for that Apple would refuse?

    Alain.

  • But C|Net Said... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mr_zorg (259994) on Wednesday January 10, 2007 @08:37PM (#17549376)
    ...but C|Net said this yesterday:
    He surprised many by continuing to refer to the new mobile device as the iPhone, a trademark that is owned by Cisco Systems. Apple has apparently been in discussions with Cisco over use of the iPhone trademark for some time, but it is unclear what Apple's use of the name will mean for either company. In a written response to an inquiry from CNET News.com made while Jobs' speech was still going on, a Cisco representative said, "It is our belief that with their announcement today, Apple intends to agree to the final document and public statements that were distributed to them last night." Cisco expects to receive a signed agreement Tuesday, according to the statement.
    So did Apple NOT accept the terms, thinking they can beat this rap, or does the right hand not know what the left hand is doing?
  • Re:Duh (Score:5, Interesting)

    by nels_tomlinson (106413) on Wednesday January 10, 2007 @08:46PM (#17549530) Homepage
    I was surprised when I read that Apple was having discussions with Cisco on the name.

    Why would that surprise you? However silly we might think trademark law, Cisco owns that trademark under the current law. If Apple wants to use it, they'll have to make a deal with Cisco. Or did you mean that you were surprised that they were still talking so late in the game?

    Trusting Cisco over something like this and they screw Apple over?

    I don't see that they trusted Cisco. It looks to me as if Apple very cynically decided that rather than come to an agreement, they'd try to screw Cisco in court. Apple has been nasty before, but this is worse behavior than I expected.

    It's not like they had no other choices for the name. Trademark law still allows companies to name products without affixing an ``i'', though few companies are taking advantage of that legal lattitude. Even really stupid names like `Zune'' and ``Wee-wee'' don't seem to hinder sales, so I really don't see any reason for Apple to try to cheat Cisco on this silly name.

  • by puto (533470) * <theflatline@yahoo.com> on Wednesday January 10, 2007 @08:49PM (#17549588) Homepage
    Actually no,

    I worked for a Chatroom software company that owned a product called ichat. Apple bought the trademark and the name, so they did not come up with it.

    http://forums.appleinsider.com/archive/index.php/t -8722.html

    Even discussed on appleforums.

    The company changed its name to globalchat. Which was then bought by digi-net.com who owns digichat. Ichat was sold as rooms.

    Ichat was WAAAAAAAAAAAAY before apple I'ed anything. 1996

    http://web.archive.org/web/19961106085604/http://w ww.ichat.com/

    The ichat site at apple used to explain this with a link, but have since used the distortion field to take it down.

    If I were jobs, I would come up with a different name.

    Puto
  • Re:Fire the lawyers (Score:5, Interesting)

    by acm (107375) on Wednesday January 10, 2007 @08:51PM (#17549614) Homepage
    I think there's going to be some openings in the Apple legal department soon.


    there already is. [law.com]

  • Re:Duh (Score:3, Interesting)

    by metlin (258108) * on Wednesday January 10, 2007 @08:58PM (#17549706) Journal
    Why would that surprise you? However silly we might think trademark law, Cisco owns that trademark under the current law. If Apple wants to use it, they'll have to make a deal with Cisco. Or did you mean that you were surprised that they were still talking so late in the game?

    It surprised me because it would be easier for Cisco to sue and make more money out of a settlement than to just give in. If they do this while iPhone is still on people's minds, Apple would offer a bigger settlement.

    Hence my surprise.

    I don't see that they trusted Cisco. It looks to me as if Apple very cynically decided that rather than come to an agreement, they'd try to screw Cisco in court. Apple has been nasty before, but this is worse behavior than I expected.

    Mind you -- Apple was conducting negotiations when this was happening. If Apple did not trust Cisco, they would have signed the agreement before the final announcement. Obviously, Apple announcing this before the agreement signifies one of two things:

    Apple trying to be nasty (like you said).

    Or Apple believing in Cisco's good faith.

    Since Apple was indeed having negotiations, and given Cisco's legal history before, I am inclined to go with the latter.

    It's not like they had no other choices for the name. Trademark law still allows companies to name products without affixing an ``i'', though few companies are taking advantage of that legal lattitude. Even really stupid names like `Zune'' and ``Wee-wee'' don't seem to hinder sales, so I really don't see any reason for Apple to try to cheat Cisco on this silly name.

    As the folks who made the i prefix popular (iMac, iPod, iTunes etc.), it would be logical for Apple to use iPhone for their phone. Brand names create an impression of the company in the minds of people and hence they are valuable.

    My two cents.

  • Re:Trademark info (Score:5, Interesting)

    by L7_ (645377) on Wednesday January 10, 2007 @09:01PM (#17549744)
    Also something to note is that the original iPhone for which the trademark was granted was for a POTS phone complete with 2 phone jacks (see cnn archive, but its sloooow: http://www.cnn.com/TECH/computing/9906/10/iphone.i dg/index.html [cnn.com]). The Infogear trademark was for a telephone that is also a modem. I wonder how the affect of Apple's iPhone being a Mobile phone with a wifi connection will matter.

    Another question would be *when* apple entered into talks with cisco to use the name. was this before or after cisco had already released thier own mobile phone with the iPhone name? hrrm.
  • Re:Duh (Score:3, Interesting)

    by DittoBox (978894) on Wednesday January 10, 2007 @09:07PM (#17549804) Homepage
    Of course this was going to happen -- I was surprised when I read that Apple was having discussions with Cisco on the name. Trusting Cisco over something like this and they screw Apple over? Gee, color me surprised.

    Got it wrong there bud.

    Apple was in talks to acquire rights to use the name, but they did not sign any contracts before they publicly released information and began using the iPhone trademark. The fault is squarely in Apple's court. Apple screwed up on this one, not Cisco.

  • by SuperBanana (662181) on Wednesday January 10, 2007 @09:08PM (#17549810)
    ...until AFTER you sign the deal taking the name, not BEFORE.

    When Apple announced it as the "iPhone", their bargaining position weakened considerably; they haven't quite committed to the name (Apple COULD use a different name), but doing so put Cisco in a stronger position. Which, of course, Cisco realized- you'll note the day of the conference, Cisco was saying that they had faxed over stuff and were waiting for Apple to return the docs. I bet- the agreement probably said "all your cash are belong to us."

    Even if Apple calls it the QRTB-3000, everyone ELSE will continue to refer to it as the iPhone. Apple may be hoping legions of rabid fans will side with them and Cisco will back down from a PR standpoint. Which I hope to hell never happens, because Apple fucked up on this big time. Apple may try to argue that despite Cisco having the trademark, they haven't used it in the ten years they've had it- and Cisco hasn't quashed everyone running around for the last year talking about how Apple would come out with an "iPhone."

    Cisco can hardly argue damages; they have no "iPhone" product from which Apple is causing confusion.

    One thing is for sure- this is going to keep Groklaw busy for the next few months.

  • Re:Trademark info (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Zordak (123132) on Wednesday January 10, 2007 @09:36PM (#17550192) Homepage Journal
    The operative question is whether a consumer is likely to be confused as to source. Similarity of goods or services is one factor in a multi-factor test. Generally, the more similar the marks, the greater difference you need in goods or services. So maybe you could get away with iPhone muffins, but iPhone for any kind of phone is going to be confusingly similar.
  • by cfulmer (3166) on Wednesday January 10, 2007 @09:49PM (#17550372) Homepage Journal
    You can apply to register a trademark with the intention of using it in commerce. If I recall correctly, you can put off using it for 3 years after your application. Doing so basically reserves the mark.

    Of course, if the mark was already identified with somebody else before you used it, the registration doesn't help much.

    So, here's a possible scenario: Cisco registers 10 years ago, doesn't use it. 6 years after their registration, Apple comes along and claims the 'i' abbreviation. Now, the mark is Apple's despite the registration. Cisco comes along, creates an 'iPhone,' claiming priority based on its earlier registration. But, it's too late: they lost it by not using the mark within 3 years of the original registration.

    (Not saying that I have the facts right on that. It's just a possible theory under which Apple could win.)
  • by Bodero (136806) on Wednesday January 10, 2007 @10:45PM (#17550966)
    You worked for ichat?

    Boy do I remember that chat software, even back to when Yahoo used it for their chat. All I remember from it are the long list of flaws that I used to exploit for it. Like, downloading the rooms303.exe file from your FTP site and configuring it to connect to another server on port 4071 to create an admin user, and then have full control over the other server.

    Or the other trick of logging in with a telnet client on port 4020 and pasting an ASCII telnet character to automatically load URLs in the other users' client software. This was especially used with the flaws in the HTML client to make people say something, or execute commands, such as /admin add.

    I've always wondered, did you guys know of all the flaws in ichat? The "community" kept it pretty quiet, although I'm sure the big wigs at Yahoo, MTV, townhall and nintendo all knew about them.
  • by elysian1 (533581) on Thursday January 11, 2007 @12:31AM (#17551926)
    Under trademark law, you can't trademark a generic term like "phone." You also can't just add an "i" in front of a generic word to make it a trademark. Apple thus has a good argument that the word "iPhone" can't be trademarked. This cuts both ways though since that means other people should be able to use the mark "iPhone" as well, and Apple doesn't want that. It will likely just pay tons of money to Cisco to use the mark.
  • Re:Trademark info (Score:5, Interesting)

    by piquadratCH (749309) on Thursday January 11, 2007 @01:25AM (#17552380)

    Perhaps the GP confused the UK case with the german gmail case. In Germany, the name G-mail and the domain gmail.de was already taken when Google launched Gmail. Google not only didn't get the domain gmail.de, they even aren't allowed to use the Gmail trademark in Germany. Instead, they use googlemail.com (but not googlemail.de, despite owning the domain).

    Domain: gmail.de
    Domain-Ace: gmail.de
    Descr: Giersch Ventures GmbH
    Descr: Abteistr. 5
    Descr: D-20149 Hamburg
    Descr: Germany
    Nserver: ns49.1und1.de
    Nserver: ns50.1und1.de
    Status: connect
    Changed: 2006-07-24T03:05:20+02:00
  • Hello? iMobile (Score:5, Interesting)

    by voisine (153062) on Thursday January 11, 2007 @01:57AM (#17552630)
    iPhone wasn't really a very good name to begin with. I thought the obvious choice was iMobile, being that it's much more than just a phone.
  • Re:Trademark info (Score:2, Interesting)

    by mgabrys_sf (951552) on Thursday January 11, 2007 @02:55AM (#17553022) Journal
    Here's a copy of the court filing. A link more informative than the Yahoo link methinks:

    http://i.i.com.com/cnwk.1d/i/ne/pdfs/2007ciscovapp le.pdf [com.com]

    Enjoy the legaleeze.
  • Re:WOW! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 11, 2007 @01:57PM (#17559114)
    Odd - Apple is no longer on the list on that webpage. Cover-up?

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