Summary:

Are we in for a rerun of last year’s iPad trademark episode in China? It’s certainly shaping up that way.

iPhone 5 camera

In what’s likely the least surprising bit of news you’ll read today, Apple is appealing a recent ruling by Brazil’s intellectual property authority that it is not the exclusive owner of the iPhone trademark.

Reuters reported Thursday that Apple has asked for a review of the decision by the National Institute of Industrial Property (INPI). That decision, announced Wednesday, was that since local Brazilian company Gradiente Electronica had filed the iPhone trademark in 2000 — seven years before Apple introduced the iPhone — and released a product with the name in December 2012, Apple did not have exclusive rights to use iPhone.

As part of the review, Gradiente will have to establish a few things, according to Reuters:

Now, in order to keep its trademark rights, Gradiente will need to prove to the regulator in the next 60 days that it made use of the trademark between January 2008 and January 2013, Inpi said late on Wednesday. Brands in Brazil must be developed within 5 years of gaining approval.

With the “iPhone” smartphone Gradiente began selling in December, it appears to have met those guidelines. But that’s most certainly not going to be the end of this story, since Apple can take the case to court.

This is beginning to look as though it could play out the same way an iPad trademark case did in China last year. Like Brazil, China has a “first-to-file” policy that tends to favor the first person to file a trademark, not necessarily the first user. A Chinese company, Proview, had registered the trademark for iPad before Apple made the device. Apple said it bought the rights to the iPad trademark from Proview in 2009, before the iPad was introduced, for $55,000. Facing bankruptcy in 2012, Proview’s parent company disputed the sale and tried to get the iPad excluded from sale in China. After months of legal battles, Apple ended up paying a sort of ransom of $60 million as a settlement.

Settlement with Apple might be the ultimate goal here for Gradiente too. Its CEO has said from the moment this became international news that he’s willing to talk and is “open to dialogue about anything” with Apple.

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