What a stunning turn of events for two of the best known names in technology, squaring off over the same name: iPhone.
Weeks ago, I covered the naming controversy surrounding the impending announcement of Apple Inc.'slong-anticipated mobile device. For the past year, just about everyone referred to Apple's cell phone as the "iPhone." Go to Google, and the "i's" are certainly in Apple's favor: type in "Apple" and "iPhone" and you get 8.7 million results. Do the same with "Cisco" and "iPhone" and you only get 1.7 million results. Seems just about everyone is reaching the same connection that iPhone and Apple go together like chips and salsa.
Everyone, that is, except Cisco. Which filed a Federal lawsuit late Wednesday after years of negotiations apparently fell apart.
"Apple has come to us numerous times over the last five years seeking rights to the name and acknowledging that they should be coming to us for that," says Cisco Vice President and General Counsel Mark Chandler. "We've been in intensive discussions with them the last few weeks actually trying to come up with an arrangement where the name can be shared. We're disappointed that didn't work out but at the end of the day we have to take action to make sure our names don't get used without our permission."
Cisco has owned the rights to the name iPhone since 2000 when it acquired a company called InfoGear, which apparently trademarked the name going back to 1996. The InfoGear unit is now wrapped into Cisco's Linksys division, a maker of VOIP communicators and phones.
We were told as late as Tuesday afternoon, after the Steve Jobs keynote at MacWorld, that a deal over the naming rights was "imminent" and that an announcement was pending. Amazing that Jobs would take the stage and unveil the product without a deal in place, but I guess with the mercurial Apple CEO, nothing should be surprising, including Apple's official statement on the controversy: "It's silly. we think the lawsuit is silly. There are already several companies using the name iphone for VOIP products," Apple spokesman Steve Dowling tells me. "(Cisco's) trademark registration is tenuous at best. We're the first company to use the iPhone name for a cell phone. If Cisco wants to challenge us on it, we're very confident we will prevail."