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Cisco files suit over use of iPhone name

January 11, 2007|Michelle Quinn | Times Staff Writer

SAN FRANCISCO — Cisco to Apple: We need to talk.

A day after Apple Inc. baptized its eagerly anticipated super-cellphone with the marketing slogan "We need to talk," Cisco Systems Inc. filed a trademark lawsuit Wednesday pointing out that it has owned the iPhone name since 2000.

Until Monday night, the two companies were negotiating over the name. Cisco, which acquired the name when it bought another company, was willing to "share," Cisco spokeswoman Terry Anderson said.

Apple, apparently, was not.

The Cupertino, Calif., company built a consumer electronics empire on the lowercase "i" -- iMac, iPod, iTunes -- and has long coveted San Jose-based Cisco's iPhone. Nevertheless, Apple spokeswoman Natalie Kerris called Cisco's suit "silly."

Cisco came to own the name iPhone when it bought InfoGear Technology Corp., which had owned the trademark since 1996. Linksys, a Cisco unit, began shipping iPhone products a year ago. It recently launched a phone that uses voice-over-Internet technology.

For the last several years, Apple has been asking Cisco about the iPhone name, Cisco said.

Anderson said the networking company was not looking for money and recognized the hard work of the Apple team. But Cisco is looking for a "collaboration and joint development with Apple" to ensure that Apple's phone works with Cisco's networking gear.

The talks stalled and Cisco executives were surprised when Apple Chief Executive Steve Jobs christened the phone in a presentation Tuesday.

"Several other companies are using the name iPhone for voice-over-the-Internet products," Kerris said. "We're the first to use iPhone for a cellphone. If Cisco wants to challenge us on it, we're confident we'll prevail."

Silicon Valley typically is not a hotbed of trademark violation suits, mostly because the products aren't around long enough to build up brand recognition, said Thomas Schneck, a San Jose-based intellectual property lawyer.

Apple might assert that the iPhone is part of its family of marks, such as iPod, Schneck said. Cisco may worry that with Apple's entry, the name iPhone will become more generic.

Said Schneck: "I think it's a shot across the bow."


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