Apple and Cisco strike deal over iPhone trademark

22 Feb 2007

The one unsightly blemish on Apple’s quest to “reinvent the phone” – namely the fact that the iPhone brand name was already acquired by Cisco in 2000 – has been lanced following an agreement between the two companies.

The companies said that under the agreement both companies are free to use the “iPhone” trademark on their products throughout the world.

The companies also said that other terms of the agreement were confidential so it is unclear how much money may have changed hands.

“Both companies acknowledge the trademark ownership rights that have been granted and each side will dismiss any pending actions regarding the trademark,” Apple said.

“In addition, Cisco and Apple will explore opportunities for interoperability in the areas of security and consumer and enterprise communications.”

Last month Apple got chins wagging when it unveiled the new iPhone, a quad-band GPRS and Wi-Fi device which will launch in June in the US and possibly by Q4 in Europe.

However, within 24 hours Cisco decided to sue Apple at a US District Court in San Francisco over the “iPhone” moniker it said it owns.

In its lawsuit Cisco claims that after Apple had attempted to get rights to the iPhone name several times, it created a front company to try to acquire the rights another way, even while above board negotiations between Apple and Cisco were taking place.

Cisco claimed a company called Ocean Telecom Services LLC filed an application with the US Patent and Trademark Office for the name in September. Apple also filed an application for the iPhone name in Australia. A third application was made in Trinidad & Tobago.

Cisco obtained its rights to the iPhone name when it acquired a Californian company called Infogear in 2000. Infogear made devices that allow people to easily access the internet without a PC.

Cisco’s home networking division, Linksys, has been using the iPhone trademark for a new family of voice over IP phones since last year.

It is understood that even within days of Apple CEO Steve Jobs unveiling the iPhone at the annual Apple MacWorld expo in January Cisco expected Apple to sign an agreement under which the two companies would share the iPhone name.

Cisco was unwilling to cede full rights to the name and couldn’t agree on terms that would allow Apple to proceed.

By John Kennedy