Who owns the iPhone? That’s the big question since Apple announced the iPhone and Cisco followed with the lawsuit over the trademarked name. Cisco picked up the trademark when they acquired Infogear Technology in 2000 and have been shipping a VoIP phone under the name iPhone for some time. Cisco has a blog and are posting their side of the dispute which I find very interesting:
Cisco owns the iPhone trademark. We have since 2000, when we bought a company called Infogear Technology, which had developed a product that combined web access and telephone. Infogear’s registrations for the mark date to 1996, before iMacs and iPods were even glimmers in Apple’s eye. We shipped and/or supported that iPhone product for years. We have been shipping new, updated iPhone products since last spring, and had a formal launch late last year. Apple knows this; they approached us about the iPhone trademark as far back as 2001, and have approached us several times over the past year.
For the last few weeks, we have been in serious discussions with Apple over how the two companies could work together and share the iPhone trademark. We genuinely believed that we were going to be able to reach an agreement and Apple’s communications with us suggested they supported that goal. We negotiated in good faith with every intention to reach a reasonable agreement with Apple by which we would share the iPhone brand.
So, I was surprised and disappointed when Apple decided to go ahead and announce their new product with our trademarked name without reaching an agreement. It was essentially the equivalent of “we’re too busy.” Despite being very close to an agreement, we had no substantive communication from Apple after 8pm Monday, including after their launch, when we made clear we expected closure.
And in another post:
Apple approached Cisco many times over the past five years to acquire rights to use the iPhone trademark, acknowledging Cisco’s rights to the trademark. We had extensive discussions with them up until monday night at 8:00 p.m. with the goal of reaching an agreement.
Of course we now know that the next morning Steve Jobs announced Apple’s new iPhone to the surprise of Cisco and many in the press who had previously noted the Cisco trademark. I find it amusing that Apple enthusiasts are clamoring for proof that Cisco protected this trademark, some even stating that since the iPhone name fits Apple’s product better they should have the right to use it. What does that have to do with it?
It seems to me that Apple is getting what they deserve. How many products and companies has Apple bullied into oblivion for using the word "pod" in their name? Remember how they threatened people who used the word "podcast" with cease and desist letters? Even Houston’s own Russell Holliman, founder of Podcast Ready, got a cease and desist to quit using the word "pod" in that name. Give me a break! This is either the height of arrogance on Apple’s part to try and exclude the use of "pod" by anyone but Apple or it’s a misguided attempt to overzealously protect their trademark. So why should Cisco be any different? I do hope that Cisco prevails with this and Apple has to pay through the nose to keep the name iPhone. Or change the name to something like iWantTheNameButCantHaveIt.