Thursday, January 11, 2007

Apple v. Cisco

Lost in the tumult over Apple's (very successful, apparently) launch of its new cellphone was the fact that Apple was sued the next day by Cisco for trademark infringement. Cisco, it seems, has been selling a VoIP phone of that name since the spring of last year. (Cisco, in turn, acquired the mark when it made an acquisition in 2000.)

A few thoughts: first, Apple and Cisco apparently had been negotiating through the weekend (with the announcement looming over the talks) over licensing rights to the name. Wonder what the difference in prices were at the end?

Second, the USPTO does recognize the same "mark" in different categories, so Apple may be betting on the ability to differentiate the two phones (so as not to confuse the public, which is essentially the test the USPTO applies). But at first blush, it seems that Apple has an uphill battle to prove that the cellphone and VoIP phone markets are so distinct that consumers won't be confused.

Third, it's interesting to note that Apple was also involved in a high-profile litigation with Apple Corps (the Beatles' label) over the use of the "Apple" in connection with music (iTunes, iPod, etc.)

Finally, it's rare to see two corporate giants litigate head-to-head. Enjoy the show.

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