Editorial - The Orgins of the Apple iPhone Name

Now that Linksys, which is a division of Ciso, has announced the iPhone, everyone is wondering how they did it. And what Apple will do about it. The Pittsburg Post-Gazette summarized the puzzle on Sunday.

The article started with what we know: "But the name has caused a stir. Cisco has owned the trademark on the name "iPhone" since 2000, when it acquired the company that originally registered the name, InfoGear Technology Corp." [In 1997]

A search of the U.S. Government Trademark site confirms that in Trademark serial number 75076573, registration number 2293011. The filing shows that the first commercial use of that term was in June 1997.

Digging a little more, there is a site that describes the history of the term iPhone as used by Apple. The first evidence of the term iPhone in an Apple context seems to be by the New York Times back on August 18th, 2002. The first time Steve Jobs was confronted with the term appears to be on September 11th, 2002 in a Hearld Tribune interview. But Mr. Jobs didnit use the term himself.

All along the way, Apple seems to have been aware of the InfoGear trademark even as they filed for a patent on a cell phone/media device. The patent application describes a cell phone and media combination device, but a search of the actual patent application reveals that the term "iPhone" is never used. Apple has also indicated awareness of this by seeking trademark protection for the term "iPhone" in Singapore and Australia (2002) and Canada (2004), but interestingly, not the U.S. until a company in Delaware filed for that trademark on September 25th, 2006, and it is identical to filings used by Apple in other countries. That trademark filing also appears at the U.S. Government trademark site.

Finally, in terms of Internet domains, Apple has obtained the domain www.iphone.org, which points to the Apple site, but they do not currently own www.iphone.com. All this suggests that Apple has been aware of the previous trademarks, has trademarked the term in other countries, has patented a cell phone/music player combination, and appears to be working behind the scenes to get all its ducks in a row. Finally, Apple could claim that it has a family of trademarks in other countries and make a legal case, but an article at CNN Money suggests that is "not a strong argument." If Apple tried to buy the trademark from Cisco, it appears from the release of the real iPhone that Apple was unsuccessful. Apple hates to be gouged for money when another company beats them to the punch, and so perhaps the offer went the other way and Apple declined.

Anyone for iPod 6G?