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When Steve Jobs heralded the iPhone as being as revolutionary as the iPod during his MacWorld keynote in San Francisco on Tuesday, he must have known that it was going to be a bloody revolution. Sure enough, Cisco has now fired the first shots with a lawsuit in the US District Court for the Northern District of California which cites preventing Apple “from infringing upon and deliberately copying and using Cisco’s registered iPhone trademark.”

The device is not earth shatteringly different from that which has gone before, and to be brutally honest its biggest value comes by way of the brand association. If this were the ‘Apple Smartphone’ or the ‘MacMobile’ it simply would not be generating the kind of totally to be expected hyperbole that it is. However, because it is another ‘i’ device, the iPod evolved, a lifestyle and cultural icon taken to the next stage of development, there can be little doubt it will sell well. Assuming , of course, it is allowed to be called an iPhone , and that is in serious doubt.

Linskys, a division of Cisco, acquired the iPhone trademark along with a company called Infogear back in 2000. The original trademark request was filed way back in March 1996. There is no way that Apple can contend it was unaware of this, and no way a court will find in its favor. Just to compound matters, a senior vice president and general counsel at Cisco, Mark Chandler, has revealed that “Cisco entered into negotiations with Apple in good faith after Apple repeatedly asked permission to use Cisco's iPhone name… they should not be using our trademark without our permission.” Indeed, as Chandler points out “today's iPhone is not tomorrow's iPhone.” Cisco, via Linksys, already have an iPhone for sale and it intends to protect that product, that brand, as vigorously as Apple protects its brands.

Apple are not coming out of this one very well, it has to be said, not least because it has been particularly ferocious in issuing ‘cease and desist’ orders for products using the word ‘pod’ as Mach5Products discovered last year when they got one regarding an infrared data collection system called Profit Pod. Now, this could hardly be confused with an iPod either in name or purpose, despite Apple arguing at the time that both devices received and transmitted data, both were connected with videogames and the Profit Pod was a small, flat, round-cornered rectangular device.

The Apple iPhone, though, is undeniably a phone, just like the Linksys iPhone. Funnily enough, that device started shipping last spring and was officially launched in December. Apple started negotiations for licensing the name ‘several years’ ago according to a Cisco spokesperson, but those talks broke down literally hours before the Steve Jobs keynote speech. Apparently, Apple had until the end of the business day to sign the contracts and seal the deal, something it did not do, hence the lawsuit.

What is really funny though, given the Profit Pod debacle, is that Apple is arguing that the lawsuit is silly because the products are materially different. An Apple spokesperson stating that it was “first to use the iPhone name for a cellphone” and concluding that “if Cisco wants to challenge us, we’re very confident we will prevail.”

Yeah right, this one will never go to court. The Apple iPhone brand is way too important to risk loss. This one will get settled out of court, very quickly, and for a huge amount of money.

As Editorial Director and Managing Analyst with IT Security Thing I am putting more than two decades of consulting experience into providing opinionated insight regarding the security threat landscape for IT security professionals. As an Editorial Fellow with Dennis Publishing, I bring more than two decades of writing experience across the technology industry into publications such as Alphr, IT Pro and (in good old fashioned print) PC Pro. I also write for SC Magazine UK and Infosecurity, as well as The Times and Sunday Times newspapers. Along the way I have been honoured with a Technology Journalist of the Year award, and three Information Security Journalist of the Year awards. Most humbling, though, was the Enigma Award for 'lifetime contribution to IT security journalism' bestowed on me in 2011.

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Last Post by happygeek
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Apple is confident that they can buy a judge and jury with their massive legal budget, maybe even countersue Cisco for using iWhatever for any product at all.

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The trademarked iPhone is older than any of Apple's i* products so I don't see how Apple can countersue.

Apple knew that the iPhone would make a massive splash and it did and now everyone will associate the iPhone with one thing, Apple's iPhone.

The only reason Cisco/Linksys's device made it into the media is becasue it had the name iPhone; the device is completely unremarkable.

iPhone on the other hand looks fantastic; great looking, great looking software, effortless communication with other Apple products etc.

Even if Apple has to change its name the device will always be known as iPhone.

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which is why any sensible judge will rule that Apple has to withdraw the device from the market, maybe even hand it over to Cisco.

Let the robber baron Jobbs bleed for a change, might teach him a lesson.

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No judge is going to hand the device itself over to Cisco, that would just be silly not sensible.

I agree that no matter what the outcome, everyone is going to refer to the Apple device as the iPhone and forget about the Cisco/Linksys product. Indeed, I suspect that it will be the latter that might end up with the bigger rebranding exercise at the end of the day.

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