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The case hinges in part on whether Apple's phone -- a sleek, $499 gizmo unveiled Tuesday -- could confuse shoppers looking to buy Cisco's iPhones. Lawyers specializing in intellectual property told the AP that Cisco will likely win, if the case goes to court.
"Cisco's argument will hold water," said David Radack, chairman of the intellectual property department at Pittsburgh-based Eckert Seamans Cherin & Mellott LLC. "It'd be like if I sold spark plugs, then someone else said I'm going to sell carburetors with the same name. Yeah, they're different products -- but they're both sold in auto parts stores, and someone who saw the brand name on a spark plug could reasonably think it was made by the same company."
There are a few avenues that Apple can pursue in defending itself against Cisco's lawsuit. One tack that Apple can take is proving that its iPhone is as different from Cisco's iPhone as Delta Air Lines is different from Delta Faucet, David Radack, chair of the intellectual property department at the Pittsburgh law firm Eckert Seamans Cherin & Mellott, told [url=http://news.com.com/2100-1041_3-6149755.html?part=rss&tag=2547-1_3-0-20&subj=news]CNET[/url]. No one is going to call Delta Faucet looking for a round-trip ticket from San Francisco to New York, so two companies can use the same trademark if they don't confuse the other's customers, he said.
Preventing consumer confusion is one of the primary reasons for trademark law, Radack told the AP. Courts must consider whether the average consumer would be flummoxed by the fact that a faucet company and an airline share the same name. "Since the mark is the same, are the goods substantially different?" he asked.
Apple can also argue that it owns a "family" of trademarks related to the iPhone, Craig Mende, a lawyer with trademark and copyright firm Fross Zelnick Lehrman & Zissu in New York, told the AP. For example, the iPod, iTunes, iMac, iWork and iLife products all bear a strong association with Apple, so the company could argue that consumers would naturally associate the iPhone with Apple.
If either of those tactics fails to impress a judge or jury, Apple could also claim that Cisco has failed to defend its iPhone trademark, Stanton told the AP. Cisco acquired the iPhone trademark when it bought Infogear in 2000. Since then, other companies, such as Teledex and Orate Telecommunications Services, have shipped products -- products that directly compete with the Cisco/Infogear line of phones -- bearing the iPhone moniker.
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