iFone iPhone

As reported by the Mexican publication El Universal, the Mexican Institute of Industrial Property (IMPI) has ruled that Mexican carriers are no longer allowed to make use of the “iPhone” name, since it violates the phonetically identical sounding “iFone” trademark owned by a small call center in Mexico. The trademark is filed under Class 38, which covers telecommunications services.

To be clear, Apple will still be able to sell the iPhone in Mexico and use its own trademark as it sees fit, but carriers won’t be able to. The basis behind the ruling is that, since Apple is not considered to be a telecommunication services provider, it is acquitted of being at fault. Instead, the IMPI has placed the blame directly on Mexican carriers, which do provide telecommunications services… 

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The infringing carriers, including Telcel, Iusacell and Movistar, have been fined an undisclosed amount and given fifteen days to remove the “iPhone” moniker from any of their advertising and marketing materials. Not only that, but iFone now has the option to sue the carriers for civil damages. The dispute has been going on for the better part of five years.

iFone filed for its trade name in 2003, while Apple did not release the iPhone until four years later. Nevertheless, in 2009, the Cupertino-based company attempted to gain control of the iFone trademark to avoid consumer confusion. The iPhone maker was unsuccessful at winning that lawsuit, and suffered another blow in late 2012 when it lost a second appeal to have the trademark overturned.

Mexican carriers will still be able to carry and sell the iPhone, but it would appear, based on this ruling, that they cannot address or advertise the smartphone by name. The carriers do have the option to appeal the ruling to the Federal Court of Fiscal and Administrative Justice, which could delay the process even further. We’ll be sure to keep you up to date as the situation unfolds.

What do you think will happen?