Cisco Sues Apple Over Use of iPhone Name
Cisco Systems served Apple Inc. with a nice fat lawsuit in federal court today. Cisco claims that the computer maker’s new iPhone violates its trademark. The lawsuit, filed in San Francisco federal court, came just a day after Apple Chief Executive Steve Jobs unveiled the Apple iPhone at MacWorld, and seeks injunctive relief to prevent Apple from copying Cisco’s iPhone trademark.
But even while Jobs was trumpeting the product during his keynote address to Apple faithful, the matter of the product’s naming had not been resolved behind the scenes between two of the biggest names in Silicon Valley. San Jose-based Cisco, the world’s largest network-equipment maker, has owned the trademark on the name “iPhone” since 2000, when it acquired InfoGear Technology Corp., which originally registered the name.
And in the spring of last year, Cisco’s Linksys division put the trademark to use and began shipping an Internet phone called “iPhone” that uses the increasingly popular Voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP. The product was officially launched three weeks ago.
Cisco said Apple had approached the company a number of times over the past few years about a licensing agreement to use the name, and that the talks heated up in the past few weeks. However, Cisco said communication between the companies ceased Monday, and even while Jobs was holding court at the Macworld Conference and Expo, Apple lawyers had not signed and returned the final contract.
It was at that conference that Jobs introduced Apple’s own iPhone, a touch-screen-controlled cell phone device that plays music, surfs the Web and delivers voicemail and e-mail. The product still needs FCC approval.
Apple argues it’s entitled to use the name iPhone because the products are materially different. Apple spokeswoman Natalie Kerris called Cisco’s lawsuit “silly” and said there are already several other companies using the name iPhone for VoIP products.
“We believe that Cisco’s U.S. trademark registration is tenuous at best,” she said. “Apple’s the first company to use the iPhone name for a cell phone. And if Cisco wants to challenge us on it, we’re very confident we will prevail.” Cisco executives argue that, despite the current dissimilarities between the Cisco and Apple iPhone, both phones could take on new features or work on different networks than they do today.
The Future: So, so stupid. Apple has until June to work this out, otherwise they’ll just change the name to Apple Phone whilst stiill benefiting from the publicity. Although Cisco is rumored to be developing a cell phone, Apple truly owns the name in the public’s eye…and that’s what’s really important.