Cisco and Apple reach iPhone agreement

Written by Brett Thomas

February 22, 2007 | 09:26

Tags: #iphone

Companies: #apple #cisco

Ever since Apple announced its 2007 baby, the iPhone, it has been in the crosshairs of controversy. Between its high cost and limited ability to run applications, it seems the product had enough of its own problems - and then Cisco sued over it. The networking company had held the name since 2000, and was a bit miffed at the new product - but it seems the two companies can share after all.

Late on Wednesday afternoon, Cisco and Apple officially announced an end to the feud over the trademark. That's right, iPhone-gate is over without a single shot being fired, no loss of life, and (oddly enough) both companies able to use the brand name.

The companies publicly stated a cessation of all litigation over the dispute in a joint statement, and promised to allow each enterprise to market its product worldwide. The financial terms for the agreement were not disclosed, but one can bet that it wasn't cheap for Apple. In what is likely a nod of favour to Cisco for dropping the suit, the statement also talked about a new partnership between the two firms, with Apple working to provide better integration with future Cisco products.

This particular choice of settlement, where both companies appear to have a carte blanche with regard to the trademark, is certainly an unusual one. In American intellectual property law, such a solution is generally frowned upon - one company is supposed to own the name, and can either lease it with terms (including an end date) or sell it and give up rights. Sharing of trademarks tends to muddy the waters, creating slippery slopes for when something is "automatically" patented by virtue of previous advertising.

The idea that Apple should have some right to the name simply because of previous marketing trends is a dubious claim at best. In fact, Apple lost applications for trademarks of other terms "of or relating to" its iBranding such as "podcast" already. The fact that this didn't get to court is probably worth whatever fee Apple paid for it, and will prevent the case from setting any precedent legally (which would be happy news for the Patent and Trademark Office).

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