Copyright regulator to strip Apple of its iPhone trademark in Brazil

On Monday, we passed along a report claiming that Apple is in jeopardy of losing its ‘iPhone’ trademark in Brazil. It applied for exclusive rights to the name back in 2007, and is expecting to hear a decision from the country’s copyright regulator next week.

The problem is that the iPhone trademark has belonged to electronics maker IGB Eletrônica SA since 2008. And rumor has it that the Brazilian Institute of Intellectual Property is going to rule in its favor, meaning Apple couldn’t use the term anymore…

Reuters reports:

“Brazil’s copyright regulator will strip Apple Inc of the right to use its iPhone trademark in Latin America’s biggest market and granted the trademark to a local company that registered it first, a source familiar with the decision said on Tuesday.”

IGB Eletrônica SA says that it had “foreseen the revolution in the convergence of voice and data over the Internet,” leading it to apply for the trademark back in 2000. The company later secured rights to the name from a local copyright regulator in 2008.

Of course, that’s their side of the story. Here’s what Marcus Mendes, who lives in Brazil, has to say about it (via The Loop):

“Let me get this straight. After Steve Jobs announced the iMac in 1998 and justified the use of the prefix i because of the internet, Gradiente registered the name iPhone and never did anything about it. The years passed, Apple released a product called iPhone, it became one of the most successful products in the history of the world, while Gradiente went bankrupt (wonder why) and was bought by IGB Eletronica SA.

Then, last November, 2 months before license for the naming rights in Brazil expired, they rushed and released a shitty Android-based phone just to secure the name.”

I have to admit, Mendes has a point here. It seems awfully sketchy that IGB Eletrônica, after sitting on the iPhone trademark for years, would rush an Android phone that uses the name to market, just two months before the naming rights were set to expire.

And the company obviously has no intent to maintain the smartphone line, because its president Eugenio Staub told Bloomberg yesterday that he’s ‘open’ to selling the iPhone trademark. “We’re open to a dialogue for anything, anytime,” he said. “We’re not radicals.”

Is any of this sounding familiar? It should. Apple spent the better half of last year fighting with Proview over the ‘iPad’ name in China, before eventually settling with the company out of court for some $60 million. It looks like IGB is playing a similar game here.

It’ll be interesting to see how Apple handles the situation, if the Institute of Intellectual Property really does rule against them. The iPhone is by far Apple’s best-selling product, and Brazil happens to be one of the fastest-growing smartphone markets in the world.