iOops, Apple Didn't Actually Get The Rights To The Name iPhone

from the not-so-fast dept

In the weeks leading up to yesterday’s big announcement there was a lot of talk about how Apple couldn’t even use the name iPhone because it was a registered trademark of Cisco. Thus, it was as big of a surprise as any that Apple’s new converged cellphone/iPod was indeed called the iPhone. The word out of Cisco was that the night before the announcement, they sent Apple the final terms of a license that would allow Apple to use the name, and that they expected a signed agreement right away. Well, apparently Apple didn’t get back to Cisco quickly enough, and now the networking giant is taking Apple to court, seeking to prevent Apple from using the name. It seems likely that this is a threat to make sure that Apple takes Cisco’s demands seriously, and that things will get worked out before the lawsuit goes to trial. Still, it’s really astounding that Apple would make such an important announcement without having this matter long squared away.

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Comments on “iOops, Apple Didn't Actually Get The Rights To The Name iPhone”

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EH says:

Re: Cisco can cry over the royalty payments

“…I can’t see any consumer this side of outer Mongolia think about iPhone and not believe its an Apple product.”

Given that Cisco makes an IP Phone (one of which is actually sitting on my desk), you can easily see how they could shorten IP Phone to iPhone. It’s a business product, so joe sixpack might not be confused, but some people would.

misanthropic humanist says:

There's no business

“Still, it’s really astounding that Apple would make such an important announcement without having this matter long squared away.

No surprise, the lawyers were just dragging their heels.

Once the PR machine starts moving there’s no stopping it. Apple have been planning the show for months, look at how smoooooth Jobs presentation went. The crowd were gagging and fawning like they’d been hypnotised. That’s showbusiness, and the rule of showbusiness is that the show must go on darling!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: There's no business

So, this is a great trademark situation that Apple has given us…

1. Take a trademark that PEOPLE HAVE KNOWN ABOUT FOR SOME TIME (it has been reported in the tech news that Cisco owns the “iphone” mark).

2. Piss all over it and claim that the mark is yours.

3. ???

4. Profit

Yeah. It looks like an old joke, but people trademark names for a reason. I can bet you that when Cisco purchased the company that trademarked the name, that name was one of the assets it purchased. To have Apple come along and simply steal it by screaming to the world that it’s theirs is out and out stealing.

Apple has done this before. Look at Macintosh HI-Fi systems. Look at Apple records. (And Steve Jobs put the famous “Abbey Road” cover image as one of the images in his MacWorld keynote!)

The Apple “iphone” looks really interesting, if half-baked. It will probably look great in three years (just like the ipod looked great when the Nano came out). That doesn’t give Apple carte blanche to steal the name, especially when they were in negotiations to secure the name from Cisco.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: There's no business

That’s a load of bull crap if I’ve ever heard it. It makes shit difference what bloggers say. The law is the law and Apple is flat out wrong in it’s actions in this case (hello new M$).

Quit being an Apple appologizing fan boy and deal with the fact that they’re not the holy angels of the tech industry you want them to be. I think most of Apple’s products are great too but that’s no excuse for that kind of blatant infringement.

DittoBox (user link) says:

Re: Re: There's no business

Apple Records lost because Apple records can’t possibly be confused with Apple Computer.

Trademarks are there to protect the consumer from fraudulent use of names and logos to trick people into buying stuff that isn’t the Real Deal.

I think Apple really should’ve lined up their trademark ducks and shot them before announcing the iPhone, but then again any publicity is good publicity.

Paul (user link) says:


Its possible that Apple is trying to use the public against Cisco in their negotiations. By pushing the iPhone name as an Apple product for at least the next 6 months whenever you hear that name you will think Apple. If you don’t already because with them everything starts with i.

It would be interesting if Cisco just told them to screw off and decides not to sell the name to them. What would they call it then the iPodaPhone or the iPoned ?

Jon Ashley (profile) says:


Even if Cisco sues Apple, I think they’d have to prove ‘damages’. And the relative notoriety of the brands, and expectations of the public, do have an influence.
Apple owns the iMac, the iPod, iTunes, etc. and no one can hear “iPhone” without thinking Apple. So the brand equity is clearly in Apple’s favor.
Cisco is damn-near infringing on Apple for using the name, trademark registration or not.
My guess is that no trial will ever be held, the market will concede that Apple owns the name and it will come out to the market as “iPhone”.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: iPhone

So what? Because Apple owns other i* products that automatically gives them rights to a trademarked name that has been bought and paid for and understood to be owned by Cisco for quite some time? That’s a total load of crap.

There is no need for Cisco to PROVE infringement. Apple’s conceeded that simply in the fact that they were in the process of licensing to begin with. They’re well aware who owns the name. In fact, if this ever made it to trial the court would likely automatically award statutory damages to Cisco since Apple knew they owned the name.

Cisco could probably sue Apple for criminal infringement as well stating that they fully knew the name was owned and stole it anyway. After that’s said and done Cisco could then show damages on top of that. The law is quite clear about this point.

Apple doesn’t have a leg to stand on for arguing that they own squat. Now, I agree that this will likely never make it to court. Apple will settle and brand their device but Cisco will always own it unless Apple purchases it outright (which wouldn’t be a stretch).

Shohat says:

Re: Considering the fact The Cisco is A ALOT bigger

Cisco has been using it since around 97 .
(10 years)
Cisco is a monstrous tech company that really invents , develops, manufactures actually innovative hardware . (MP3 players and fluffy laptops are not innovations ). Cisco is not know for hitting people with lawsuits for nothing .
But they are around 3 times bigger than Apple.
And ten times more financially stable than Apple.
And they are going to hit Apple for all the right reasons.
Go Cisco :).

Doug Robb (profile) says:

Generic Names

If they are not careful you will find that the
trademark will become what is called diluted or fall into generic use, losing its protected status.

For example the word iPhone could follow the lead of what were once trademarks such as “escalator”, “xray” and “zipper” that became generic.

Also in my opinion the practise of putting an ‘i’ (for Internet) or an ‘e’ (for electronic) in front of a word is not making a product ‘distinct from others’ as is required to be considerd a TM. This process itself has become generic.

eg As people have noted this product was widely touted as an iPhone months ago – probably well before Apple officially chose that name.

Stymie says:

I think it was a strategic mistake by Apple.

Given that the crowd at Macworld went nuts for the new Apple iPhone, what’s to stop Cisco from demanding 10x more than they were demanding before? Apple’s options would be to:
1) pay up
2) change the name

If Cisco does in fact own the trademark (based on what we’ve seen they do), then they can demand whatever they want to license it’s use. They have no obligation to license the name to Apple or anyone else. They would say pay us $100000000000000 or don’t use it; that’s within their rights.

Now, I think we agree that Cisco will never make jack squat with their own iPhone device, so it makes absolute sense for them to get whatever they can by licensing the name to Apple. But given that Apple has already started to build equity in the name (with the announcement and fanfare), the price just went up. And Apple did it to themselves.

Cisco does not need to prove damages if all they want is to assert their rights to the trademark. A court will grant injunctive relief (prevent Apple from using the name) as long as Cisco establishes their ownership of the trademark. If Cisco wants to sue for money, then they will have to prove damages, but could also be awarded punitive damages in excess of actual damages.

old_devil says:

Pots, kettles, sycophants and hypocrits.

Isn’t it amazing that when Jobs and his thugs threaten to sue anyone who even whispers the word “pod” [looks around nervously] it’s acceptable, but let anyone give Jobs some of its own medicine and his adoring acolytes scream like stuck pigs? And how embarrassing was the hysteria at Jobs’ keynote? My Nokia N70 does what Jobs’ gizmo does and I think it’s just as cooooooooooooooooool! Isn’t it about time people grew up and stopped treating Jobs like some sort of secular messiah? I hope the case does go to court and Jobs gets taught not to be such a smart arse.

UniBoy says:

Plenty of time to change the name...

The MacWorld crowd, the analysts, and many others, got excited over Apple’s forthcoming product…because of its revolutionary qualities.

Regardless of the name of the device when it comes to market in June, it is going to have a big impact on Apple, and on the industry for years to come.

I am fairly certain that Apple has a short list of backup names that aren’t trademarked by whiney has-been companies.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Plenty of time to change the name...

what are you retarded? Cisco is a has-been? damn EVRYONE LISTEN UP Cisco is washed up please leave the ‘Net now, it’s run on Cisco equipment, and since sisco is now washed up it’s all gonna crash and burn. OOOH I CANT WAIT FOR THE NETGEAR INTERNET!!! hourly lockups and crashes…. just like my old winME box 😀

In short parent is a f%^king RETARD.

lordofacid says:

Has-been? what??

Has been, someone is obviously not in the world of IT. Every major router on the net in the last decade has been either cisco, baynetworks, or 3com, with cisco being the monster. Linksys’ ubiquitous blue box is in thousands of households. They make top shelf equipment (except I hate my 54G, but only because I can’t hack it as well with OpenWRT linux). I do not remember Bill Gates having to rescue cisco to keep it from becoming another amiga. I don’t recall the last lame commercial for a cisco product. I don’t recall the last big shindig for the new firewall or san solution. However, I seem to recall all of these things happening to apple. Before someone takes me wrong, I like apple. I like their equipment. I wish they had gone full blown linux instead of half assed. I wish you could buy an apple at a reasonable price. I wish their fanboys would use their head, instead of their intestines. Guts are great, but your gut instinct is often wrong.

Darkcyde says:

Wether you gay ass Microshaft fanboys want to believe it or not, Apple is a staple in the electronics industry both in the home and the work place. I dont care if Cisco owns the trademark “iPhone”, cisco’s iPhone and Apple’s iPhone are completely different products. Apple is not going anywhere anytime soon and you’re just going to have to deal with it. Dont get me wrong, im CCNA but what Apple is doing is astounding. The iPhone, Apple TV, oPod, MacMini, iMac, iLife, etc are all extraordinary products way ahead of their time. And i dont know where the hell this idea of “Half ass linux” is coming from. OS X is more Unix than Linux will ever be. Just because your mommy raised you to succomb to the “wonderful World of Windows” doesnt mean the rest of the I.T. industry has to as well. As for me, my entire business runs on an Apple infrastructure and I wouldnt have it any other way. Viruses, spyware, malware, all bullshit aimed at M$ so maybe before insulting the Mac “fanboys” you should take a look at what YOU represent and think about that for a second. Maybe then you’ll be more than just a mindless statistic and get the big picture.

lordofacid says:

Re: Re:

Hey mac fanboy, I’m not one of the wonderful world of winblows, I’m a linux user, and apple is built on darwin, which is linux. So, mac fanboy, you have just succeeded in making yourself look like an id-ten-T. And apple is not making routers, switches, or any other networking gear as far as I can tell. If you make all your other business decisions as wisely, you will soon be in the same dustbin as commodore.

Darkcyde says:

As for Cisco, great company, great products, and absolutely great support. What I dont understand is the fact that all you whiney ass bitches get your granny panties in a knot just because Apple is about to shift the market, AGAIN. Steve Jobs using the “trademark” iPhone just proves the point that he doesnt care about what some multi billion dollar company thinks and is delivering exactly what the Apple market wants, a suitable name for a highly demanded product. I usually dont give 2 shits about these stupid ass forum boards or anyone who posts in them but I cant stand to see retards hating on Apple because they’re gaining market share. Face it, Apple is better, just because you cant afford one doesnt make it any less of a machine. If only all companies would be as intuitive as Apple, then maybe, just maybe, you whiney asshole would have someone else to gripe about and let Apple do what they do best, please their customers.

Darkcyde says:

Actually, as Steve Jobs ownes => 51% of apple shares no one can Buy Apple without him first deciding to sell. And as much as you would like that, it will never happen. And contrary to most conventional beliefes mr. Billy buys brand new Apple computers for his family members each year. so wether he owns stock or not he is still contributing to the company.

old_devil says:

Re: Jobs shares

by Darkcyde on Jan 10th, 2007 @ 7:36pm

Actually, as Steve Jobs ownes => 51% of apple shares no one can Buy Apple without him first deciding to sell…..

Isn’t there an interesting investigation taking place at the moment into Jobs shareholding and how much of it may actually be not quite kosher? Steve may yet get his day in court, but not over trademarks 😉

Petréa Mitchell says:

Two thoughts

1) If negotiations have been going on for years, maybe that’s where the persistent iPhone rumors have been coming from.

2) The Cisco iPhone now looks like it was rushed out in case this came to pass, to forestall a court deciding that it wasn’t serious trademark infringement if Cisco wasn’t actually using the trademark.

Darkcyde says:

The (Apple) iPhone is an extremely anticipated leap in the mobile device industry by incorporating the most widely used digital products into one hand held solution. A widescreen Video iPod, a cellular telephone, a wireless internet browser, a “Multi-Touch” screen, a seemless design and incredibly simple and smooth interface is exactly what I want in my next mobile device. I’ve owned everything from a tungsten to an ipaq h6315 to a Treo 650 to a moto Q and nothing compares to the videos of the iPhone. Pure and simple intelligence alone can tell you that this is a big deal for Apple and it is going to shape the market once again. As the iPod shaped the music industry the iPhone will shape the mobile connectivity device industry.

Mousky says:

Re: Re:

Anticipated leap? Huh? Since you have owned a Treo 650, then you are aware it plays videos, it is a cellular phone, it has a browser, it has a multi-touch screen (and a keyboard to boot), it has bluetooth and so on. How is the iPhone any more innovative than the Treo 650, 680, 700 or 750 or the Blackberry Pearl? Look, the iPhone looks great, but really, where is the innovation? It’s all been done.

Bob from Accounting says:

Re: Re: Re:

Ugh…. The iPhone is not inovative in what it does. It is not the fact that you can listen to music, watch videos, surf the web, check your email and make phone calls that makes the iPhone inovative. It is how the iPhone does these things. It is taking something that is cumbersome, and sometimes confusing for normal users to do and making it simple. The phone itself is not inovative, the software that runs on it is.

I own a Sony Ericsson P910a and I love it. It is very easy to use and has (in my view) one of the best phone/pda operating systems on it, but it is complicated compared to how simple the iPhone is to use.

BTW I am an ex-Mac fan boy with a kick butt Dell XPS M170 that cost less than a 15 inch powerbook (needed for mobile gaming).

Cisco says:

Someone earlier said cisco is “washed up”. Are you retarded? I’ve been working in the IT industry for quite some time. Let me tell you, Cisco is FAR from gone. It’s in almost every administrators networking closet. If you think they’re near extention you are sadly mistaken. They are still the top gear. Although I agree overpriced, you get what you pay for. Reliable, and great products. Just like Sony or any other of your home name brand products.

That being said…Cisco owns the property of iPhone regardless of how much you think Apple should be entitled to use it. Just because a company comes out with a slueth of products and then decides to name something thats already out there, doesnt automatically entitle them to rights. Are you going to try and tell me that the X-Games should have the right to the Xbox just because they are the first to use an X before the name? You people who are making excuses for Apple are retarded. Bottom line, copyright infringement and the bearer of that name should have the rights to fully prosecute.

Nick says:

Take Note

First off, let us all stop arguing about who is better. Stop blasting the other opinions simply because your opinions are your own. The most intelligent thing that can be said is that each platform, company, or whatever has its strengths and weaknesses. We all have preferences. I personally prefer linux servers, but I have worked in companies where windows servers powered the entire infrastructure. Guess what? It works fine. Apple is gaining market share, they have cool stuff with innovations that really draw the consumer market. Cisco is a staple in the enterprise networking world. If you say anything else, you need to get a clue. Cisco has its strengths and weaknesses as well, but it is nonetheless probably the largest player in that market. Apple is great for consumers and has there “Awe” factor. Fine. What Cisco does here is up to them. If the tables were turned, Apple would shit themselves. Also, it doesn’t make it right. This world doesn’t lend itself to playing nice and easy to get along with. Sometimes you have to be a hardass and protect your ASSets or people will walk over you in the future. It isn’t about whether Cisco will turn a substantial profit on the iPhone, but if you were a business owner you wouldn’t giveaway or worse let someone take it from you just so they would make a better profit off of it than you would. Think about it. Cisco has all the right, whether it suit your morals or not.

Darkcyde says:

I agree, prosecute, to the fullest extent until your content with legal mumbo jumbo. It’s not excuse making for Apple, just because I prefer Apple products doesnt mean that I think Cisco should just hand the name over. But when any new Apple product is about to hit the market these Apple haters come out of the woodwork and start bashing the company all over again. Either way Apple is probably going to wind up with the name in the end. as Patrea stated, the Cisco iPhone looks like it was rushed to the market to prevent the trademark from just sitting in the books in some lawyers bookselfs in the basement of Cisco headquarters. This is clever marketing and trademark protection but its a shabby atempt to squeez money out of Apple to purchase the name.

nonuser says:

bait and switch on the iPhone name

Apple probably has a fallback name or two, but that wouldn’t have gone over nearly as well as “iPhone”. Then people would have three questions: 1) is it cool? 2) should I by one? and 3) when should I buy it?

By line-extending the iPod name Apple reduced their loyal customers’ decision making to question 3: how many editions do they wait before they buy it. If Apple has to change the name to something else, that shouldn’t dampen the initial wave of enthusiasm… what difference does it make what they call it.

Darkcyde says:

As a business owner myself i understand the value of marketing, protecting what is rightfully mine, and most importantly turning a profit. Hell I have 1 Cisco router and 2 Cisco switches at the backbone of my infrastructure. I know how valuable Cisco is to the networking market and I absolutely cherish my CCNA certification. But the simple fact still remains that “i” prefixed product names are one of the things Apple is known for. Now im not suggesting that Cisco give it up and im not saying that Apple deserves the rights to the name. I agree, what happens from here is up to the key players but in all honesty I dont see Cisco keeping the name for long.

ShadowSoldier says:

I have an idea

I think that apple should name its product the MacPhone, it is simple, it works with apples new computers, i.e. iBook= MacBook, PowerBook= MacBookPro, and so on. Seriously if some other company owns MacPhone I will laugh myself to death, then laugh as Mac tries to sue them, or gets sued, or both. Now I love Macs and apple, their great, but honestly despite what any of the people out there say, apple dropped the ball on this one legally. I believe they do own the TM in other countries, but I am guessing that their main customer base is in America. Also who is going to buy a Cisco phone, I personally have never even heard of any, none the less seen one in a store. I wouldn’t personally buy an “iPhone” by Cisco, nor would I switch over to cingular just to get a MacPhone. I think both of the companies COO’s should fight to the death to solve it out, screw court!

GJ says:

And what about Nuvio's iPhone?

There’s already a phone service provider called Nuvio offering a VOIP phone service under the iPhone trademark.

Check out

Unless Nuvio has a trademark license to use this mark from Cisco, seems Cisco is being selective about who they are trying to “protect” their trademarks against. If Cisco hasn’t been consistently defend/enforce its trademarks, it would seem to give Apple more ammunition to move forward with its use of the mark.

Paul says:

“I personally think it would be funny as hell if Apple went and just bought Cisco, took iPhone, and sold Cisco off again, granted I know it wont happen but still that would be funny in my opinion. But then again I have a wierd sense of humor too.”

You are also ignorant and don’t realize that the vast majority of the internet and business networks run on extremely expensive cisco equipment.

If anything Cisco would buy Apple and run it into the ground just to see the look on Steve Jobs face.

Anon says:

Apple will pay up either way

People that are saying the iphones of each company are 100% different obviously are a bit out of touch with reality … they are both PHONES otherwise there would be no PHONE included. Yes they are different TYPES of phones but nevertheless they are both electronic communication devices thus Apple will not be able to get out of their trademark issues by using their past excuses. Bottom line – Stealing is Stealing and Apple is going to pay up.

Avatar28 says:

A few points:

A) If the role were reversed, I guarantee you Apple would have sued the HELL out of the other company for infringing their trademark. I mean, heck, just look at all of the lawsuits they’ve filed against companies that dare to use the word Pod in a name. Even if it is a completely unrelated technology, they still do it, and that’s just a partial use of the name. This is a complete and blantant ripoff of the whole name.
B) There’s nothing really new or innovative about the iPhone. As others have said, any PDA phone offers pretty much all the same features. In fact, it’s missing what I would consider key features such as wifi syncing, 3G HSDPA, and the ability to download from Itunes over the air (thanks to the aforementioned lack of 3G).
C) does anyone else in here think that the price on the iPhone name just went WAY up?

todd says:

why even call it an iPhone?

I don’t even understand why Apple would want to call their new productthe iPhone. If they claim that it is this great convergence of technologies that’s never been done before (which it has,… many times), then the name should not focus on one aspect of the device.

Apple should choose a name that speaks to bringing all aspects of the device and fitting it in with your daily life. Or maybe a more generic name like the iPod was when it came out. Apple could even go out on a limb and not put an i in front of the name.

There are plenty of people who have phones that are mp3 players, or cameras as well, and the user never uses anything but the phone. This is typically because the other features aren’t very good. If Apple truely thinks that each part of the iPone can stand on its own, then the device should be sold at BestBuy without a cellular contract, so if i just want to use the contacts and mp3 player, I can do so. I shouldn’t be forced to use one aspect of the device. Apple would have serisouly shaken up the wireless market by selling a presumably popular phone unlocked.

Enrico Suarve says:

So its a phone right?

Ah its all been said already – who cares?

It’s a phone – i’ll shove my happy hat on than


It looks great but basically has a load of stuff I couldn’t care less about, seems set to tie me into one operator alone and has a battery life which is more than likely pants

So thats the phone/internet device/worldpeace generator covered – on the subject of trademarks Cisco should go straight to court without passing go – I’m not normally fond of laywers but i’ll make an exception for this world class piece of arrogance

On another note – anybody know if any research has ever been done into exactly what creates fanboys of any description? I find them amazing and quite funny in all honesty and am just curious

Rasputin says:

Countering stupidity

“After yesterday’s announcement I can’t see any consumer this side of outer Mongolia think about iPhone and not believe its an Apple product. Cisco better sell the name to Apple and build more routers.”

Is that right? Better sell or else what? Angry emo kids end up on Cisco’s doorstep?

“I personally think it would be funny as hell if Apple went and just bought Cisco, took iPhone, and sold Cisco off again, granted I know it wont happen but still that would be funny in my opinion.”

It would be especially funny considering that Cisco’s market cap is approximately 2x that of Apple. Perhaps Cisco should buy Apple and shut them down instead?

“I dont care if Cisco owns the trademark “iPhone”, cisco’s iPhone and Apple’s iPhone are completely different products.”

Except that they’re both phones with the same name? Sure, I understand.

“Hey mac fanboy, I’m not one of the wonderful world of winblows, I’m a linux user, and apple is built on darwin, which is linux.”

Hey Linux fanboy, Darwin is built on BSD, not linux.

“On another note – anybody know if any research has ever been done into exactly what creates fanboys of any description? I find them amazing and quite funny in all honesty and am just curious”

I’m guessing some degree of obsessive compulsion combined with the need to subvert oneself into a group identity.


As to the story, this is really simple. Apple doesn’t own the trademark. If Apple wants the trademark, they have to pay for it. Apple’s negotiating strentgh went down dramatically once they announced the product without securing the rights. Dumb move.

Anonymous Coward says:

I’m not a lawyer, but Cisco wasn’t using the name iPhone until they entered into negotiations with Apple. Their iPhone line they announced last month was a rebranding of an existing line of phones. If you do not use a trademark in one company, and the other company owns it in other markets, you may be SOL.

Believe me, Apple’s lawyers are not stupid. This is more complicated than it seems. Also, it created another night of news stories on our local news here. Even if Apple changes the name (which I think they will), mission accomplished.

Apple TV and iPhone. Hmm… Apple Phone seems more likely. Did the actualy mock-ups actually say iPhone anywhere on them?

Anonymous Coward says:

Apple is no more inventive with their iPod than any other company with an MP3 player. They just market to people who don’t know anything better. This Christmas I had to convince 1/2 my family that an iPod was an MP3 player. The fact of the matter is the masses look at branding and advertising more than they even look at the product. The iPhone will end up being the same thing. People see an “i” in front of “Phone” and think the device is ground-breaking and unlike anything else available.

Indiana John says:

new " i Dog "

I am Looking forward to getting my new” i dog” as soon as they come out with it. The only problem is they have been” i doggin” for thousands of years.
and some one always complains. My wife even asked me what’s an ” i dog” and I said it’s kinda hard to explain but if you slide over hear I can show you.
Windows boys listen up!” i dog” is coming and in the END you will be the ones
bent over.
Apple Forever!

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