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.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Two rulings today

The Supreme Court decided two cases today. Well, they decided one, and punted on the other.

In the first ruling, the Court held that paying royalties to a putative patentee under a license agreement does not foreclose the licensee from challenging the validity of the patent at issue in the license itself. This is a great turn of events for innovation- patent trolls have basically choked the system, and anyone developing new technologies is at risk from the increasingly frivolous patent system.

In the second case, the Court granted cert to decide one question (whether a defect in the indictment can be harmless error), but decided a different question altogether (that the indictment wasn't really defective after all). This is the second case this term in which the Court dodged an important Constitutional question, the first being Musladin. I sense in this the work of the Chief Justice, who wants the Court to issue narrowly crafted decisions on the most minute of grounds. Meaning useless precedent.

Back to regular blogging tomorrow.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

And the Rodney goes to....

Greg has handed out the PD Blogger Awards in a lavish ceremony at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood, and what can I say- it was an honor to be nominated. I was totally gobsmacked when Blonde Justice did the one-armed pushups. I just wish I knew how Marisa Tomei got an award.

Seriously- congrats to all the winners! I read you all everyday!