Cisco sues Apple: 'iPhone must be renamed'

Unsurprisingly, Cisco is suing Apple over the use of the iPhone name.

Cisco said that Apple's newly launched iPhone is infringing on the iPhone VoIP phone that Cisco launched before Christmas. The company demands that Apple changes the name of its mobile handset.

Cisco has owned the iPhone trademark since 2000 but hadn't used it until the recent launch of its iPhone VoIP handset .

When Apple launched its iPhone handset at the MacWorld event on Tuesday, the general assumption was that it had cleared the legal rights to the iPhone name with Cisco. This was not the case, however, and now a lawsuit has begun.

When the news about Apple's new mobile device spread following Tuesday's launch, Cisco responded by saying it hoped to resolve the matter by Tuesday evening after negotiations. When this apparently didn't happen, Cisco yesterday filed a lawsuit to a Californian federal court.

Apple says lawsuit is 'silly'

Cisco said in the complaint that the Apple iPhone "will share an identical sight and sound and strong similarity of meaning".

Apple responded by calling the suit "silly".

"We are the first company to use the name iPhone for a mobile phone and if Cisco wants to challenge us on it we are very confident we will prevail," Apple spokesman Steve Dowling said.

"There are already several companies using the name iPhone for voice over IP products. We believe Cisco's US trademark registration is tenuous at best," Dowling said.

Cisco said in a statement yesterday that Apple has unsuccessfully been trying to get legal rights to the iPhone name for years. Cisco said it was 'surprised' to hear that Apple had gone ahead to present the new iPhone.

"There is no doubt that Apple's new phone is very exciting, but they should not be using our trademark without our permission," Mark Chandler, Cisco's senior vice president, said.

Trademark experts surprised at launch

Trademark lawyers were also surprised that Apple announced a product without having legal rights to the name.

"It's pretty odd for a company to take this kind of risk," Andrew Baum, a trademark lawyer with Darby & Darby in New York, told the BBC .

Apple said the Cisco trademark does not cover mobile telephony, only VoIP phones. Therefore Apple thinks it has the right to use the iPhone name for its new mobile device.

But perhaps iPhone isn't the final name of Apple's mobile device? Apple's media hub changed names from iTV to Apple TV when it was officially unveiled at MacWorld on Tuesday. Perhaps the iPhone will also carry a different name when it hits the shops in the US in June?