Tom has done a great job on this article and he is right on here – on many fronts. This is a must read if you are interested the iPhone vs. iPhone case. He cites trademarks and the shell company called Ocean Telecom Services which Tom figures must be an Apple shell company.
This morning Bloomberg was discussing that this company is an Apple shell company by the way.
This part of Tom’s argument shows tremendous insight:
The most compelling or likely attack on Cisco’s trademark is on "a family of marks". The best analogy to use is McDonalds. Say you decide to start selling McTofu burgets – even if there is no trademark on McTofu burgers, McDonalds can go to court and state they have a "family of marks". In fact, the court has ruled in the past in favor of McDonalds against a mattress company that tried to trademark McSleep. They ruled it belongs to McDonalds. So what Apple could do is say "we put ‘i’ in front of something is what we do, with iPod, iMac, iTunes, etc.". Of course what shoots that down is the fact that Cisco trademarked this term in 1996. So what the trademark experts are saying is that Cisco in effect let their trademark expire and only brought it back later AFTER Apple had already brought to market a family of marks and products with the letter "i". Most experts expect that Cisco and Apple with settle this dispute before it goes to court, but knowing Steve Jobs, I wouldn’t be surprised if he battle big, mighty Cisco. It’s not like Steve Jobs ever tried to take on any other big heavyweights… like say Microsoft. 🙂
Where I disagree with Tom is the similarity in the products. I see them as very similar and even if the Apple device is aimed at consumers there is the potential this device will be a hit in the enterprise market. I personally am interested in buying one for example. I am not sure I am thrilled with an onscreen keyboard with no tactile feedback. But who knows, I could potentially get used to it. The point is this device is powerful enough to become a laptop replacement for some. That means my friend, that this device can be used in business for field sales people and mobile salespeople who make presentations in the pharmaceutical space. The consumer/business crossover is greater than most of us think.
But in the end my take is Apple has the upper hand in this argument as Cisco’s iPhone brand is too obscure and hasn’t been protected. This echoes what I wrote on the topic earlier today.