IGB Electronica iPhone (image 002)

A Brazil judge Wednesday ruled that Apple can use the iPhone name, clearing the way for the tech giant to compete in South America’s burgeoning smartphone market. The ruling reverses an earlier finding that gave a Brazilian company exclusive rights to the iPhone trademark. In his ruling, the judge declared Apple and IGB Electronica must share the iPhone name, writing the U.S. company had built a well-known line of iDevices…

Judge Eduardo de Brito Fernandes wrote (via AFP) that Apple’s iPhone is “world renown” and it would be unfair to permit IGB Electronica’s Android-powered Gradient IPHONE to have sole ownership of the trademarked name. In 2012, Apple lost its bid to legally use the iPhone name in Brazil after IGB won a ruling from the country’s Institute of Industrial Property. Today’s ruling follow’s Apple’s appeal.

Fernandes also wrote that the Gradient IPHONE name was simply joining “internet” and “phone” as a way to indicate a handset with internet access. The story isn’t over yet, as IGB plans to appeal this latest ruling.

Apple has found Brazil troublesome for its other major product, the iPad. Earlier this year, a lawsuit was filed there claiming Apple’s iPad 3 was intentionally made obsolete with the introduction of the iPad 4 including features not available in the earlier tablet. In June, the iPad mini was released in Brazil, where both Apple and its manufacturing partner Foxconn have plants.

Some observers of Apple’s Brazil woes thought the iPhone trademark case might follow an earlier naming dispute in China. In that instance, the dispute was over the iPad name and Apple eventually paid $60 million to buy the trademark from bankrupt Chinese firm ProView.

Brazil is key for Apple and its expansion beyond the US. Earlier this year, a report indicated by 2018 so-called BRIC nations (Brazil, Russia, India and China) would surpass the US as a market for devices such as the iPhone and iPad.