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Cisco goes to war over the iPhone

Pick a new letter, Apple

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Cisco Systems wasted no time flexing its trademark claim to the iPhone moniker. The networking giant today revealed that it has sued Apple for "infringing upon and deliberately copying" the iPhone name with the announcement of its flashy new handset at Macworld.

The technology world has been waiting to see if Cisco would act on its iPhone claim. It's common knowledge that Cisco secured the trademark in 2000 when it bought Infogear, the original maker of iPhone-branded products. According to Cisco, Infogear's iPhone trademark stretches back to 1996, and Cisco's Linksys division has been shipping a new line of iPhone gear since 2006.

Apple apparently knew much of this and negotiated with Cisco about the name before announcing the iPhone yesterday. That is if you believe Cisco's attorneys.

"Cisco entered into negotiations with Apple in good faith after Apple repeatedly asked permission to use Cisco's iPhone name," said Mark Chandler, SVP and general counsel at Cisco. "There is no doubt that Apple's new phone is very exciting, but they should not be using our trademark without our permission."

Always litigious, Apple knows the way of the trademark dispute game. Most recently, the former computer maker started going after companies that use "pod" in their names or to describe their services. Apple has also battled against The Beatles' record label Apple Corp. and bullied for the rights to itunes.co.uk.

With Cisco, Apple acquires perhaps its worthiest opponent to date.

Cisco beat Apple to the stores with iPhone gear, and has plenty of lawyers to prove it. It may not own a letter like Apple, but we doubt that will hurt its case.

"Today's iPhone is not tomorrow's iPhone," Cisco's Chandler said, making many wonder just how crash hot the company's legal team really is. "The potential for convergence of the home phone, cell phone, work phone and PC is limitless, which is why it is so important for us to protect our brand."

We're sure Apple is crafting its customary "no comment". ®

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