Apple has to let go of ‘iPhone’ name in Brazil: reports

In a strange turn of events, Brazil's copyright regulator is all set to strip Apple of the right to use its iPhone trademark in Latin America's biggest market. The regulators have granted the trademark to a local company that registered it before the Cupertino-based organisation.

Gradiente Eletronica SA, one of Brazil’s largest consumer electronics maker, registered the 'iphone' brand name in 2000, a good seven years before Apple launched the iconic smartphone, Reuters reported citing an unnamed source. However, Gradiente didn't release its own iPhone-branded product until December last year, when it began selling a line of touchscreen smartphones that ironically run Android, iOS’ biggest rival.


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The Brazilian Institute of Intellectual Property, which was expected to publish the decision today, will now officially announce it on February 13. After the official ruling, Apple will be allowed to challenge it in the Brazilian courts. Apple’s spokesperson in Brazil declined to comment.

With a swelling middle class anxious to go online, Brazil is one of the fastest-growing markets for smartphones in the world. IGB Eletronica SA, a company formed after the restructuring of Gradiente, launched its 'iphone' line of smartphones last December.

The Brazilian company's Android 2.3-based smartphone is being sold for 599 reais ($302) and comes both in black and white, just like Apple's handset. Unsurprisingly, Gradiente's price tag is much more palatable in comparison to the Apple's offering, which costs four times as much at 2400 reais.

This is not the first time Apple has been stuck at an impasse with regards to the name of what is arguably its most famous product. The company had to grapple with Cisco Systems in early 2007 for the rights to the iPhone name in the US, a few months before the first model was released. Cisco had sued Apple for trademark infringement immediately after the iPhone was first unveiled at the annual Macworld conference in January 2007. Cisco contended that Apple had approached it over the name a number of times and even used a shell company to acquire the name. The two companies ended up settling in February 2007.

Internationally, Apple has had other claimants to its products’ names besides Gradiente. In China, a company called Proview entered into dispute with Apple over the rights to the iPad trademark. The impasse threatened sales of the world’s most popular tablet in the world’s most populous country and was settled in July 2012 for $60 million. Brazilian telecom analysts said last year that they expected Apple to settle in the latest case.

Bloomberg reports that Gradiente is willing to sit with Apple regarding the terms of settlement. “We’re open to a dialogue for anything, anytime,” chairman Eugenio Emilio Staub told Bloomberg in an interview in Sao Paulo, adding that there hasn’t been any contact by Apple so far. He further said, “We’re not radicals.

Published Date: Feb 06, 2013 11:56 am | Updated Date: Feb 06, 2013 11:56 am