Cisco vs Apple: The iPhone Incident

Cisco vs Apple

Everyone who follows technology, or has watched the news, over the last couple of days has heard by now that Apple’s coming out with an iPod-cell phone dubbed iPhone. Clever. :| What you may not have heard, however, is that Cisco - the world’s leading networking manufacturer, not the R&B sensation that brought us such hits as “The Thong Song” and… well, that was pretty much it - have already produced a phone called iPhone. This is not new; in fact, they’ve held the trademark on “iPhone” since 2000. So why is Apple using the iPhone name? That’s what I’d like to know.

From what I understand, Apple and Cisco were in talks to work out a deal that would allow Apple to use the iPhone name with their new product. Those talks ended on or around Monday, no deal had been reached, but Apple continued to announce their iPhone anyway. Apple’s iPhone is both a portable music device and a cell phone, while Cisco’s iPhone is used for VoIP telecom. They are different, but not as different as Apple would like you to believe:

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 products like Cisco’s that use the increasingly popular Voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP.

“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.” [source]

Those “other companies” might be using the iPhone name, but none of them are making as much money as Apple will make with its iPhone implementation. As far as “Apple’s the first company to use the iPhone name for a cell phone” - OK, that’s great, but you’re still using the name of a product trademarked by another company for a similar product. If I wanted to make an airplane by the name “Corvette”, you could bet your ass I’d be sued by GM. A more relevant example - if I wanted to make a phone called “iPod”, Apple would absolutely sue the crap out of me.

I’m not a legal expert by any means, but Cornell University has a pretty good understanding of it: “The owner of a trademark has exclusive right to use it on the product it was intended to identify and often on related products.” A phone’s a phone; in my opinion, we really are comparing apples to Apple’s here.

Ideas for a new name?


Update - February 22, 2007

Looks like the hipsters at Apple and the geeks at Cisco came to an agreement on the use of the iPhone name, and are even looking into joint ventures on future products. Figures.

SAN JOSE, Calif., Feb. 21 (UPI) — U.S. consumer-electronics company Apple Inc. and Cisco Systems Inc. have resolved their dispute over the iPhone trademark, the companies said Wednesday.

The agreement lets Apple and Cisco both use the iPhone trademark on their products globally and acknowledge the trademark ownership rights that have been granted, the companies said.

Each side will dismiss any pending actions regarding the trademark.

Cisco and Apple will also explore opportunities for “interoperability” between the companies’ products in the areas of security, and consumer and business communications. [source]

One Comment on “Cisco vs Apple: The iPhone Incident”

  1. iPwned

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