10 January, 2007

Apple v. Cisco: The fight for the iPhone.

Now, who didn't see this coming? Yesterday, Cisco sued Apple over the iPhone trademark, ostensibly defending their new 'iPhone' branded VOIP Phone. For those not so pathologically glued to the internet as me, Cisco got shit from the blogosphere for their iPhone launch in early December, especially as it was linked to an Engadget iPhone prediction which turned out to be one of the worst off-season April Fool's jokes in recent times. Cisco has owned the trademark for 'iPhone' since 2000, when they acquired it as part of a company they bought., so Apple is knowingly in the wrong here.

I could see Apple try to make a case out of the fact that an 'iAnything' is derivative from the iMac, iPod, etc., but still it's a very weak case, and I doubt it would hold up in court. No matter what happens in the courtroom, though, Cisco lost the PR battle when they released a product with the iPhone name, knowing full well that it would either a) be confused with an Apple product (therefore underhandedly infusing their lackluster VOIP Phone with some Apple mojo), or b) possibly lead to a legal dispute with Apple over the name. The fact that they held the trademark makes no difference from a real-world perspective; any marketing person could have told Cisco that using the iPhone name was a bonehead move. iAnything is linked to Apple in consumer's eyes.

That being said, I wouldn't put it past Apple to have simply come out with the iPhone name as a placeholder until June (sort of like the iTV), when -after keeping the iPhone in the spotlight through a highly publicized legal squabble with Cisco while they get FCC approval- they would unveil the real name for the device's actual launch in June. From a mindshare perspectiive, after enough time (like say, six months), they could call it the iTurd if they wanted to, and people would probably still refer to it as the iPhone out of habit. Who knows?

As far as alternate names, 'ApplePhone' sounds ok. Not as nice a ring to it as 'iPhone', but good enough. However, think about the rest of the picture, at least from a marketing/advertising perspective. [Apple Logo]Phone would kick ass in text, just like the new [Apple Logo]TV. Kind of a mouthful, but it does wonders for branding your living room. Actually [Apple]Phone rolls off the tongue better than [Apple]TV, I think.

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