Earlier this year, Apple (sort of) won a trademark lawsuit to Mexican telecommunications company iFone over the use of the phonetically-identical “iPhone” brand. The iFone trademark was originally filed in 2003, and in 2009 the company filed a suit against Apple. In March 2013 the case ended with the decision that Apple had in fact not infringed on the mark.
The logic behind the ruling was based on the difference in the two companies’ markets. While iFone sells telecommunications services, Apple sells smartphones (but not actual telecommunications service). Because of this, Apple would be allowed to continue using the name.
We say Apple only “sort of” won the case here, becuase unfortunately, the Cupertino company’s Mexican carrier partners were caught in the legal crossfire, as demonstrated by a ruling today that placed the burden of the infringement squarely on them [translation].
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Because cellular carriers offer telecommunications services, the IMPI (Mexico’s equivalent to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office) ruled that carriers selling the iPhone could no longer use the name in their advertising materials.
The impact doesn’t end there. Carriers Telcel, Movistar, and Iusacell are now being charged fines for infringing on iFone’s trademark and have been ordered to remove the word “iPhone” from all marketing materials within the next 15 days. Despite the fact that Apple was found blameless in its actions, it seems the carriers will now bear the cost for Apple’s device name.
The carriers do have the option to dispute the ruling, but there’s no guarantee that the decision will be reversed if they do so.
Thanks for the tip, Francisco!