IP? We Don’t Care About Your IP…

Following directly on the heels of Apple’s announcement of the iPhone was the announcement of Cisco’s lawsuit against Apple for using the name.

Pardon me for a moment while I laugh uproariously. While I’m sure this will be settled for the exchange of cash and valuable prizes, Apple has stone cold screwed the proverbial pooch. You do not get to make your product announcement when you have yet to secure the rights to your product name. To do so displays a gross level of incompetence that is just astounding. Did Apple seriously think Cisco would just sit on their hands while Apple announced a product using Cisco’s trademark? Is Steve Jobs really that delusional?

I also applaud the release of the Logitech iPhone several weeks ago. This makes it functionally impossible for Apple to do anything but pay through the nose or rename the product. If I recall my trademark law correctly, as long as you have products commercially available, the trademark is not abandoned. Since Cisco has products out using the trademark, Apple’s case just got exponentially more difficult.

Cisco’s lawyers presumably have a stack of C&D letters ready to go out to everybody and their dog reminding them that Cisco owns the trademark for iPhone and that if you refer to the device in question by the appellation, you will mention that the trademark is not held by Apple. I know if was in charge over at Cisco, the C&Ds would be flying out the door by overnight express. I would also damn sure make the cost of doing so an integral part of the settlement. Hell, I would ask for an injunction against Apple to quit using the name until the court case is settled.

I’m going to be completely cynical about the outcome of this case and try to predict the future, all at the same time. Cisco has close to 20 billion in cash, Apple has 10. Cisco has more money on hand. Cisco’s operating cash flow is 8 billion and change as opposed to Apple’s 2 billion and change. Cisco brings in more money every quarter than Apple pulls in all year. In short, Cisco has more money and more resources. Cisco’s gonna win. Add to this analysis the issue that Cisco doesn’t need their iPhone products to ever take off in the market. Apple needs the iPhone product, if not necessarily the name, more than Cisco does. Apple has more to lose in this game than Cisco does, making it much more likely that they will settle.

I think I’m going to get me some popcorn and watch the show. This promises to be one of the more entertaining episodes of 2007.

Update: Cisco's General Counsel speaks!


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