Thursday, January 11, 2007

Apple vs. Cisco

If you have been paying any attention to my shared news feeds down the right column, then you will see many stories about the Apple iPhone. I am a Mac geek, I have been waiting for this phone, and I may be in the market for a new one. So my interests and my needs may converge.

Well, iPhone was registered as a trademark by Cisco for its new line of VOIP phones. Although Cisco and Apple were in talks over licensing the iPhone name, those discussions broke down literally hours before the announcement at MacWorld. Predictably, Cisco sued. Apple's response- bring it on.

Since a lawyer's most important task is to predict likely outcomes based on the facts and the law, let me make a prediction: Cisco is going to get iBitchslapped.

For one thing, Cisco's trademark is specifically registered for use with "computer hardware and software for providing integrated telephone communication with computerized global information networks." Apple's iPhone is at root level a cell phone. Also, Cisco is not the only company to lay claim to the iPhone mark.

While both of those facts are important considerations, neither one is dispositive in my estimation. What carries the day for Apple is that everyone already associates electronics branded "iSomething" with Apple- think iPod, iBook, iMac, etc- while no one has ever heard of Cisco's iPhone. In fact, I would venture to say that if you had randomly polled 100 people
before the announcement and asked them who made the iPhone, the vast majority would guess Apple.

Trademarks are only infringing if they are confusingly similar. Here, they are not just similar, they are identical. And yet, I don't think Cisco has a chance.


unlikelymoose said...

not that it has any legal validity, but the term "iPhone" has been tossed around the mac community for years leading up to the actual announcement of the iPhone.