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Advertising Businesses Government The Almighty Buck The Courts Apple

After Trademark Dispute, Mexican Carriers Can No Longer Use iPhone Name In Ads 53

Posted by samzenpus
from the take-that-name-out-of-your-mouth dept.
An anonymous reader writes "The Mexican Institute of Industrial Property (IMPI) on Thursday announced it has absolved Apple of wrongdoing in a trademark lawsuit surrounding the iPhone's infringement of a local telecommunications company marketing the phonetically identical 'iFone' brand. The logic behind the ruling was based on the difference in the two companies' markets. While iFone sells telecommunications services, Apple sells smartphones (but not actual telecommunications service). Because cellular carriers offer telecommunications services, the IMPI ruled that carriers have to remove the word 'iPhone' from all marketing materials within the next 15 days."
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After Trademark Dispute, Mexican Carriers Can No Longer Use iPhone Name In Ads

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  • by Parafilmus (107866) on Sunday June 08, 2014 @05:27PM (#47191837) Homepage

    I don't know anything about Mexican trademark law, but the decision seems fair on the surface.
    If the "iFone" brand was in use beforehand, then I can see how "iPhone" would be confusing.

    Maybe Apple or the carriers will cut a deal... or maybe their marketing material will just start referring to "apple phones."

    • Maybe Apple or the carriers will cut a deal... or maybe their marketing material will just start referring to "apple phones."

      Apple is also a trademark, so they are not allowed to use that in advertising either.

      I'm not familiar with Mexican law either but these laws are pretty well unified by international treaties. You cannot use another company's trademark in your advertising material unless you have permission. Any carrier who sells the iPhone to customers would have permission to use the trademark, so this tells me the carrier does not sell iPhones and therefore has no business using iPhone in their ads.

      • Re:Seems correct (Score:4, Insightful)

        by hey! (33014) on Sunday June 08, 2014 @07:13PM (#47192171) Homepage Journal

        Er... Why would Apple sue vendor using the Apple trademark to sell Apple products? That's what trademarks are *for*.

        This is more like, imagine the iPhone was called instead the SpryntPhone. Sprint, the *carrier*, would object to Verizon and AT&T selling "SpyrntPhones" because it sounds like "Sprint Phones". They wouldn't object to those carriers selling "Samsung" phones because that doesn't affect their trademark.

      • Re:Seems correct (Score:5, Insightful)

        by sribe (304414) on Sunday June 08, 2014 @08:37PM (#47192451)

        I'm not familiar with Mexican law either but these laws are pretty well unified by international treaties. You cannot use another company's trademark in your advertising material unless you have permission.

        Bullshit, actually. You can use trademarks all day long without permission, so long as you are referring to the actual products instead of some knock-off, nor using them in any other misleading way.

    • From TFA:-

      In March 2013 the case ended with the decision that Apple had in fact not infringed on the mark. The logic behind the ruling was based on the difference in the two companies’ markets. While iFone sells telecommunications services, Apple sells smartphones (but not actual telecommunications service). Because of this, Apple would be allowed to continue using the name.

      So far so good, you need to register your TM for specific markets. Thats why the music company that owns the Beatles' music and t

    • by Mondor (704672)

      Well, there are agricultural companies in Mexico, who sell apples. And since they produce fruits, and Apple produces cellphones, but not fruits (see the logic?) the next day someone would try to use "apple phones" in marketing material, this would be ruled out as illegal. Because consumers would be very much confused.

  • by OzPeter (195038) on Sunday June 08, 2014 @05:35PM (#47191863)

    I heard you didn't like your iPhone so I took your iPhone out of your iFone

    (Or something like that)

  • In big letters: "This is not an iFone".
    "We don't sell the iFone".
    and so on.
  • wow (Score:5, Informative)

    by Charliemopps (1157495) on Sunday June 08, 2014 @05:57PM (#47191937)

    The summary is VERY misleading.

    Real summary:
    There was a telecom company named IFone.
    4yrs later along came Apple with their IPhone.
    Carriers in Mexico that competed with IFone, started carrying IPhones, and they started advertising as such.
    Apple sued to try and take the trademark from the company. Even though the name clearly predated Apples.
    IFone counter sued, and said that the name was confusing customers as to where to get their service.

    The court said Apple could keep the name because they are in different industries. But the cross-advertising did, in fact, confuse consumers, so other Telecoms could not advertise with the word IPhone.

    All this ruling does is let Apple continue to sell their phones in Mexico, and bar telecoms for advertising it along with their service.
    IFone can still sue for damages. Apple will likely settle out of court as it's pretty clear they are going to lose.

    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      That's exactly what the summary says...

      • Kinda.

        The summary doesn't tell you who started the suit, that iFone predates the iPhone, or anything of that nature. It's not unknown for local entrepreneurs in developing countries to register a trademark they know a big American company is going to need, and then make a nuisance of themselves in local Courts until the Americans pay them to go away.

        To find out that iFone are actually a decent company you have to either read the article (and we know that's not happening), or read this guy's summary.

        • Kinda.

          It's not unknown for local entrepreneurs in developing countries to register a trademark they know a big American company is going to need, and then make a nuisance of themselves in local Courts until the Americans pay them to go away.

          Why limit that to developing countries?
          I'm sure the same happens all the time in the US with foreign trademarks that are expected to move to the US.
          It definitely happend with domain names for well known trademarks and company names.

    • So basically Apple was dumb and sued when they were clearly wrong. Oh well.

      They can afford the cash, and the solution for Mexican Cell companies is trivial: advertise you sell "Apple Phones," or "iOS phones."

      • by msobkow (48369)

        Better yet, ignore Apple entirely and focus on Samsung and the other Android devices. If Apple wants to be idiots, let them pay the full price of their stupidity for once.

    • The summary is VERY misleading.

      iFone sued. There was no countersuit. The courts ruled that Apple could sell its phones using the name iPhone, as that was a different business from iFone's.
      However, now the court has decided that the companies in the same business as iFone, the carriers, may not promote their business by using the term "iPhone" in their marketing.

      • by Jumunquo (2988827)

        Apple definitely started all this. They had two iPhone trademarks already and wanted to register iPhone for telecommunications but were told it was taken. Rather than retreat quietly, they brought a lawsuit to invalidate iFone's trademark.

  • [......] iPhone [......] phonetically identical 'iFone' brand

    The author of this article clearly has no idea about Spanish pronunciation.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Here in Mexico, the Apple iPhone is known by its English pronunciation. Áifon or Áifoun, both would work.

    • by narcc (412956)

      It's pronounced "Hey-Zeus"

    • Assuming the ph dipthong is prounounced as an f, they are still phonetically identical. Yes, I know ph doesn't occur in Spanish words and iPhone would be eeponeh.

  • They can just advertise iPhone as "The Phone from Apple its name we can't name, but you know which one it's"
    • In the United States, certain carriers were allowed to have the iPhone first. I don't know whether iFone sells the iPhone, or how common the subsidy and locking practices are in the Mexican mobile phone market, but I'm imagining ads like this: "You'd think iFone would have an Apple phone, but you'd be wrong."
    • by i.kazmi (977642)
      That-Which-Must-Not-Be-Named or You-Know-What
  • What happened is that a Mexican company registered the name iFone, which the court found phonetically equal to iPhone, for the purpose of selling communication services.

    The three largest carriers (Telcel, Iusacell y Telefonica Movistar) were prohibited from using iPhone in their advertising, as they cell precisely, communications services.

    Apple itself is not prohibited from using its brand name, but can use it only for the purposes of selling the phone, not services.

    In Mexico as in other countries, the same

  • You're not fooling anyone. Mexico has no carriers [wikipedia.org].
  • Free Willzyx.
  • Spin it how you will, but carriers banned from advertising iphones in Mexico is a loss for Apple. My crystal ball says that the next chapter in the saga is a big payment from Apple to the owner of the Mexican iFone trademark.

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