Cisco, Apple Settle Dispute Over iPhone Trademark

Both companies can use 'iPhone' trademark on their products.

Apple, the maker of iPods and owner of iTunes, settled a trademark dispute late Feb. 21 with rival Cisco Systems over the use of the name "iPhone," a vital deal for the U.S. technology group as it prepares to enter the handset market.

The Silicon Valley companies said they had had settled their dispute out of court and were both "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," a statement said. The groups did say however that they would "explore opportunities for interoperability," which analysts believe could lead to an eventual combination of the Cisco and Apple iPhones.

Apple chief executive Steve Jobs had sent waves through the telecoms industry on January 9 when he unveiled the iPhone, the latest Apple product that serves as a mobile phone, a camera, music player and Internet device. Apple is hoping its reputation for sleek design and simplicity can help it dominate the handset market in the same way as its iPod has become the reference for portable music players.

Cisco Systems had sued Apple in a bid to prevent the group using the brand name, claiming it had owned the iPhone trademark since 2000 and had been selling phones bearing the name since 2006.

Cisco's iPhone is a handset for Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), enabling users to make free or very low-cost calls over the Internet using software provided by companies such as Skype. The Apple model, scheduled to be launched in June, is to connect callers over a regular mobile network connection, but has the functionality of a phone, an iPod, a camera and a Blackberry-style personal organizer.

Analysts said both sides would win from the friendly agreement, with Cisco benefiting from the marketing power of Apple and Apple avoiding a costly legal battle and possible delays to the launch of its phone. Apple and Cisco had been negotiating for months before Steve Jobs unveiled the iPhone product at the Macworld convention in San Francisco without an agreement between the companies.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2007

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