Cisco is demonstrating that patience is a virtue, offering Apple yet another extension on its deadline to respond to a trademark lawsuit over the iPhone name.
The battle between the two tech titans has been brewing since January. Cisco filed suit against the Mac-maker the day after Apple CEO Steve Jobs introduced the company's highly anticipated first attempt at a mobile phone called the iPhone.
Cisco obtained the rights to the name iPhone when it purchased InfoGear in 1996. The networking giant's suit claims Apple's use of the iPhone trademark will cause confusion among customers. Apple disagrees.
According to Cisco, Apple asked the networking giant for another extension on the deadline for Apple to respond to its lawsuit, and Cisco has decided to give Apple until February 21.
The iPhone Trademark
This is the second extension Cisco has granted Apple. In late January, after it appeared that both companies had dug their heels in for a long court battle, the companies issued a joint statement indicating they would continue discussions with the "aim of reaching an agreement on trademark rights and interoperability."
Linksys, a division of Cisco, has been selling VoIP products under the iPhone brand since last year. And the company added new models to the lineup as recently as December.
Apple, for its part, is hoping to reach an agreement that will pave the way for it to capitalize on its well-known "i" brand that includes iMac, iPod, and iTunes.
Cisco Bites Apple
Ilan Barzilay, a lawyer at Wolf, Greenfield & Sacks, P.C., said multiple extensions on response deadlines do indicate that the companies are attempting to reach an out-of-court settlement. Cisco might have felt that it had an obligation to file the suit, he noted, because trademarks come with a built-in requirement to police the intellectual property.
"Apple probably announced its iPhone a little too early for Cisco's taste," Barzilay said. "Cisco felt it was in its best interest to file a suit right away to protect its trademark and let Apple know that any negotiations they had before the suit weren't settled."
Indeed, trademarks come with sort of a use-it-or-lose-it mandate. Aspirin used to be a trademark, for example, but it became so generic that now many pharmaceutical manufacturers use it to describe their pain relievers. Xerox faced a problem several years ago with consumers referring to a photocopy as a Xerox. The company had to work to distinguish its trademark in the public eye.
Settling the iDispute
Barzilay predicted that, despite Cisco's aggressive moves to protect its trademark, it will reach a settlement with Apple. That settlement, he said, could take the several forms, including a rights-sharing agreement, an arrangement in which Apple uses Cisco networking products, or some other licensing deal.
"If the companies come to some sort of amicable agreement, they will take steps to make sure consumers are not confused," Barzilay noted. "Apple's product is very different from Cisco's, but Cisco did use the mark first -- and that is the primary proof of ownership. The iPhone product is important to Apple and Cisco knows it."