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Cisco and Apple Settle Up iPhone Dispute

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The legal spat between Apple and Cisco over use of the term "iPhone" was nothing that, speculatively, a big bag o’money couldn’t solve. Though the terms of the settlement both companies announced yesterday are confidential, it isn’t unreasonable to think that Cisco got some benefit beyond mutual use of the term and an interoperability agreement.

The statement reads this way:

Cisco and Apple today announced that they have resolved their dispute involving the “iPhone” trademark. Under the agreement, both companies are free to use the “iPhone” trademark on their products throughout the world.

Both companies acknowledge the trademark ownership rights that have been granted, and each side will dismiss any pending actions regarding the trademark.

In addition, Cisco and Apple will explore opportunities for interoperability in the areas of security, and consumer and enterprise communications. Other terms of the agreement are confidential.

Cisco sued Apple on January 10, a day after Steve Jobs unveiled the blog-eleptic seizure-inducing iPhone at MacWorld and sent LG into double-secret meetings about similarities to its closely guarded Prada phone.

Cisco had trademarked the term "iPhone" back in the mid-90′s, and had been negotiating with Apple for its use for two years when Jobs jumped the gun (some speculate to beat LG to the punch). Sorry about using two idioms back to back like that. Make that three.

On the evening of January 9th, Cisco said Apple had not returned phone calls to resolve the trademark issue, so the company filed suit the next morning. Apple attorneys called the lawsuit "silly."

They may have thought so because many had argued that the term "iPhone" was already commonly used for many different types of Internet-connected telephones. But also, and Cisco’s willingness to settle may be reflected here, Engadget reports that companies are required to file a "Declaration of Use" with the US Patent and Trademark Office every six years to keep their claim to the trademark. At the time of the Apple release, Cisco had not done so.

But Apple’s willingness to keep the matter out of court may also reflect either the shaky ground the company was walking by using the term, or even an unwillingness to risk the courts deciding "iPhone" was actually in common use, preventing anyone from staking claim.

No doubt Apple thought the suit, if went that far or not, would be worth it. Jobs expects to sell 10 million units in the first year. And it’s not like Apple shies away from legal battles. They’ve sued or have been sued by just about every competitor in the market. Wikipedia has a good running list. The entry about Carl Sagan is especially interesting.

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Cisco and Apple Settle Up iPhone Dispute
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