Apple sued by Cisco over ‘iPhone’ name

11 Jan 2007

Cisco Systems has decided to sue Apple at a US District Court in San Francisco over the decision to call Apple’s new all-in-one MP3 player, internet tablet and phone device ‘iPhone’, a trademark Cisco obtained in 2000.

Amidst predictable fanfare and media frenzy, Apple CEO Steve Jobs launched the iPhone device at the annual Macworld Expo this week.

The new iPhone will run Mac OS X, will include quad-band GSM, EDGE and Wi-Fi, and has a two-megapixel camera. The 11.6mm-thick device will launch in June in the US and in Q4 in Europe. In the US the device will be exclusively available on Cingular’s network with a two-year deal, costing US$499 for a 4GB version and US$599 for an 8GB version.

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 claims 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 as recently as 9 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.

Apple is likely to use the defence that there are several companies throughout the world that use the iPhone name for voice over IP, including a UK company called Orate Telecommunications and a US company called Teledex.

By John Kennedy