Apple Releases iPhone, Changes Name, and Gets Sued: All Smart Moves

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So unless you’ve been hiding under a rock the past couple days, you’ve inevitably heard that Apple released its highly anticipated iPhone, fusing the ubiquitous iPod with the even more ubiquitous cellphone. Apple Computer even went as far as changing it’s name to Apple Inc. to illustrate just how serious this move is. The company has officially graduated from computer company to consumer electronics superstar.

But Cisco, the company that owns the iPhone trademark (incidentally, the latest rendition of the Cisco iPhone was hurriedly released three weeks ago: a VOIP phone that was and is talked about more for its name than anything), is now suing Apple.

Here’s the official press release and here’s an interesting tidbit from Cisco’s General Counsel Mark Chandler:

“…This is not a suit against Apple’s innovation, their modern design, or their cool phone. It is not a suit about money or royalties. This is a suit about trademark infringement.”

Do lawyers really think they’re going to gain credibility by boldly proclaiming a trademark infringement lawsuit is not about money?

He goes on to explain that the two companies have been in negotiations for the iPhone trademark as far back as 2001. But why so complicated, you may ask. What could have Cisco wanted that must not have been about the money?

“Fundamentally we wanted an open approach. We hoped our products could interoperate in the future…Our goal was to take that to the next level by facilitating collaboration with Apple.”

Oh, is that all? You just wanted to be indefinitely part of the world’s most promising gadget with an already established market of over two billion cellphone users. Well, not quite, there’s more:

“And we wanted to make sure to differentiate the brands in a way that could work for both companies and not confuse people, since our products combine both web access and voice telephony. That’s it. Openness and clarity.”

Translation: Cisco’s iPhone pales in comparison to what Apple has. Can you think of a better way to make money from someone else’s way-more-popular product that wants the same name as yours? Tell them they can use the name but only if they promise to figure out a way for your two products to work together all while not confusing the world.

That would take more innovation than Apple has packed in its new phone! In Cisco’s defense, they definitely are sitting on hot real estate right now. But in Apple’s defense, going forward without permission, though risky, may be cheaper. This may end up being the lawsuit of the century if whatever has to be paid out at the end is more than what Apple would have conceded to Cisco in the first place…

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