Suing Apple over a name? Take an iNumber.

Company files suit over iCloud, a battle Apple knows how to win

What’s in a name? Apparently, if you happen to be Apple Inc., a new one might just come with a lawsuit.

Last week, GCN Lab Director John Breeden II wrote how the iCloud could change everything. This week, another company is saying that it got to the iCloud first and has filed suit over Apple using the name.

Battles over names with Apple are nothing new. When Apple came out with the iPhone in 2007, Cisco Systems sued the company for trademark infringement, since Cisco apparently had held the trademark since 2000 when it had bought InfoGear Technology Corporation. 

Cisco claimed that Apple had been trying unsuccessfully to convince Cisco to cede the trademark, but Cisco kept refusing. After a couple of attempts to secure the trademark internationally and through subsidiaries, Apple just went ahead and announced its “iPhone” during the keynote speech of the MacWorld Conference and Expo. Details of the claim can be found here.

It only took about a month to settle the suit, after which both companies had the right to use the name. But since Apple had gotten the jump on the market, people hardly remember Cisco’s Internet telephony device, and the company has since changed its focus away from consumer electronics. So advantage: Apple, I guess.

Apple has even been sued over the very name of the company. In 1978, Apple Corps Ltd., the company founded by the Beatles in the 1960s, sued Apple Computer (the former name of Apple Inc.) for infringement of not only the name, but Apple Corps' distinctive Granny Smith apple logo. It took three years to settle the suit, in which Apple Corps got $80,000 and a promise that Apple Computer would stay out of the music business. And I think we all know how that turned out.

Of course, Apple Computer didn’t, and Apple Corps sued the company again in 1989 for putting audio-recording and playback capabilities in its computers. The sides settled again, but this time with Apple Computer paying out $26.5 million and agreeing not to distribute music. And I think we also know that that turned out.

The two companies clashed again in 2003 after the opening of the iTunes Music Store, which the British company claimed was in direct violation of the previous agreement. There was no settlement this time, and the courts found in favor of Apple Computer in 2006. The worst part of all of this was that we couldn’t get any Beatles songs on iTunes until relatively recently.

Now Apple is being sued again for trademark infringement, this time for the name of its just-announced iCloud. 

iCloud Communications, a Phoenix-based company, has been specializing in voice-over-IP solutions since it was founded in 2005. Apple used its traditional tactics of filing for international trademarks and announcing and releasing the product without securing the trademark, so nothing has changed on that front.

So, what will this mean for an organization considering integrating the iCloud into its storage schema? Not much, probably. In all likelihood, this suit will be settled in a few months or so, money will exchange hands and Apple will be able to continue using the name. And even if by some fantastic happenstance Apple isn’t able to settle and loses the suit, its cloud service would still exist; Steve Jobs would just have to think of a new name to give it.

But I think you can bet that Apple will get its way. With names, it often does.


About the Author

Greg Crowe is a former GCN staff writer who covered mobile technology.

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