Cisco and Apple reach agreement on iPhone trademark

"Nevermind." That's the essence of today's agreement between Cisco and Apple regarding the "iPhone" trademark.
Written by Ed Burnette, Contributor


That's the essence of today's agreement between Cisco and Apple regarding the "iPhone" trademark. Apple can call their new phone/iPod gadget whatever they want, and Cisco can call their Skype/VOIP whatever they want. Cisco drops its infringement lawsuit, and Apple doesn't have to do anything except "explore opportunities for interoperability". Other terms of the agreement are confidential so we don't know if any money changed hands.

[Read the press release]

It seems like an anti-climactic ending to what was shaping up to be an interesting story. One the one hand, you have the flamboyant Apple CEO Steve Jobs announcing the "iPhone" to the public at MacWorld 2007 while an agreement giving him permission to use that name sits unsigned back in his hotel room. On the other, you have a very questionable trademark registration inherited by Cisco. Analysts and lawyers weighed in on both sides, alternately calling Jobs "arrogant" or Cisco "deceptive". Cisco filed a lawsuit, which in part argued that it was Apple who was being deceptive because they had used a front-company to try and take over the trademark.

In mid-January a ZDNet investigation lead to the uncovering of the now-famous photograph of the Linksys (now Cisco) CIT200 Skype enabled phone with an iPhone sticker slapped on the back:

CIT200 - iPhone or not?

Cisco used this photo as proof that they were still using the iPhone name in May 2006 in order to satisfy the requirements of the US Patent and Trademark office (USPTO). Experts debated whether or not the photo was retouched, and if not, if putting a sticker on a box constituted enough "use" to satisfy the requirements. The story was widely circulated and even picked up by the Wall Street Journal.

Note: I'm now in possession of a box just like the one in the photo, and I can verify that the sticker was not a result of Photoshopping. There is a real sticker affixed to the back of that box, inside the shrink wrap (but mine is smaller and rectangular, not exactly like the photo). The device was purchased in June or July of 2006. Interestingly, they didn't put a sticker on the front or anywhere else on the box, just on the back. But they did put another iPhone sticker (a black one) inside the box covering the device's display so you had to remove it to use the device. I have both stickers and can confirm they are real. --Ed

Most industry watchers anticipated one of two outcomes: either Apple would change the name of their phone (iFon, ePhone, and ApplePhone were some of the favorites), or Apple and Cisco would reach a settlement that would require some kind of interoperability between the Apple device and Cisco hardware. Nobody expected that the issue would simply be dropped like it was. Darn, just when it was getting interesting.

[Read Apple/Cisco articles on Dev Connection]

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