Cisco obtained the iPhone trademark in 2000 after completing the acquisition of Infogear, which previously owned the mark and had sold iPhone products for several years. Infogear’s original filing for the trademark dates to March 20, 1996. Linksys, a division of Cisco, has been shipping a new family of iPhone products since early last year.
Unsurprisingly there had been negotiations between Apple and Cisco for the use of the name, but clearly they reached no resolution. "Cisco entered into negotiations with Apple in good faith after Apple repeatedly asked permission to use Cisco’s iPhone name," said Mark Chandler, senior vice president and general counsel at Cisco. "There is no doubt that Apple’s new phone is very exciting, but they should not be using our trademark without our permission.”
With Cisco being a major technology company in its own right, this appears to be more than just an attempt to profit from the ownership of the trademark. “The potential for convergence of the home phone, cell phone, work phone and PC is limitless, which is why it is so important for us to protect our brand," said Chandler.
"We think Cisco’s trademark lawsuit is silly," Apple spokesman Alan Hely said. "There are already several companies using the name iPhone for Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) products. We are the first company to ever use the iPhone name for a cell phone, and if Cisco wants to challenge us on it we are very confident we will prevail."
Apple has certainly had plenty of litigation practice recently, with its much publicised dispute with The Beatles over the Apple name and its continued action against companies using the word ‘Pod’. In August 2006 it sued Mach5, which makes the Profit Pod – a device for wirelessly collecting data from vending machines and in September it targeted podcastready.com, which makes a piece of software called mypodder – a podcast manipulation tool.
In both cases Apple opposed the use of the term ‘Pod’ and demanded the companies stop using it. Podcastready.com not only appears to still be using both terms, but has a little TM after each of them so it can only be assumed that Apple’s action was unsuccessful.