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Cobalt may sue Apple over Cube rights

The maker of a Linux server called the Qube apparently is considering legal action against Apple Computer over the new G4 Cube.

Cobalt Networks, maker of a Linux server called the Qube, apparently is considering legal action against Apple Computer over Apple's new G4 Cube.

Cobalt representatives wouldn't comment on whether the company is considering a suit. The possibility of legal action is a "reasonable conclusion," though, given the fact that the company isn't denying the possibility, chief operating officer Gary Martell said in an interview today.

Given Cobalt's history, a suit likely would take issue with the name, rather than the shape, of the computers. Cube Computer filed a suit against Cobalt in December 1998, alleging that Cobalt's Qube infringed on the trademark of Cube Computer.

Apple Power Mac G4 Cube Cobalt settled the suit in December 1999, the company said in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing. "We acquired certain trademark rights for a one-time payment of $4.1 million, not including related legal costs," the filing said.

The Apple and Cobalt computers, while sharing the same shape and similar names, serve very different markets.

Cobalt's deep-blue Qube, introduced in 1998, is an all-in-one Internet server, 7 inches on a side, designed to make it easier for small companies to set up Web pages, email access and other basic network features.

Apple's 8-inch Cube, introduced two weeks ago, is designed for PC users.

Apple wasn't immediately available for comment.

Of course, Apple chief executive Steve Jobs might bridle at disputes over who owns rights to the Cube name. As leader of NeXT, a company Apple eventually acquired, Jobs oversaw the introduction of the NeXT Cube in 1988.