Apple appeals Brazil’s iPhone trademark ruling

iPhone 5 (teaser, the biggest thing to happen to iPhone since iPhone)

In a repeat of the ProView situation, Apple today lost exclusive rights to the ‘iPhone’ trademark in Brazil to a local company called IGB Electronics S.A. that sells an Android cheapo with ‘iPhone’ in its name. While this means both IGB and Apple are allowed to market ‘iPhones’ in the 200 million people country, Apple – keen on avoiding user confusion and public humiliation – has now appealed the decision by the Brazilian Institute for Industrial Property (INPI)…

According to Folha de São Paulo, Brazil’s major daily newspaper, Apple has appealed INPI’s decision on the grounds of forfeiture.

Apple’s argument is that Gradiente, the owner of the ‘iPhone’ moniker in Brazil, did not use the name within the legal limit of five years after it was granted the trademark in 2008.

Gradiente now has 60 days to prove that it had launched a product named ‘iphone’ or risk losing the trademark. The paper cites INPI members who note that the Brazilian Institute for Industrial Property’s decision has no bearing on sales.

Gradiente was selling its Neo-One handset since 2000.

Last year, it redesigned the device and released it as the ‘G-Gradiente iphone’, depicted below.

IGB Electronica iPhone (image 001)

They also sell the white version.

IGB Electronica iPhone (image 002)

The story mentions Gradiente could theoretically seek a court order to stop Apple from using the iPhone moniker in Brazil, though that would require a respective court ruling.

Gradiente is in it for the money.

They pulled a similar legal maneuver with the PlayStation name in the past so this gives us reasons to believe it trademarks big brands on purpose, so it could sell the moniker to its international owner once a product hits the local market.

That the Brazilian Institute of Industrial Property has sided with IGB doesn’t help Apple’s cause. I think Cupertino will fight rather than employ the waiting tactics because having an Android product marketed under the ‘iPhone’ name sets a dangerous precedent.

Last year, Apple had been playing a cat and mouse game with China’s ProView over the iPad moniker for months.

Cook & Co. eventually settled the dispute in the summer 2012 for $60 million, but only after it became evident Apple couldn’t launch the tablet in the 1.33 billion people market without risking fines.