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Did Apple pay big bucks in iAds settlement?

A company that helped advise Web ad firm that sued Apple for trademark infringement briefly posted note saying Apple paid seven figures in a deal earlier this year.

A trademark lawsuit filed against Apple by a Web advertising firm over the term "iAds" was quietly settled in July.

No one has disclosed exactly how the case was resolved but Apple now owns the "iAds" trademark, and last week a company peripherally involved in the suit posted a note to the Web that said Apple paid a "seven-figure settlement."

At Apple's iOS 4 event on April 8, CEO Steve Jobs announced Apple's iAds program. A month later, Innovate Media, an online ad agency headquartered near Los Angeles, filed a trademark suit against Apple. Innovate Media had used the term since 2006 and was granted two trademarks (3,515,183 and 3,515,184) for "iAds" in October 2008.

Copy of a note posted to the Web on October 28 by Consort.

We've seen Apple caught up in plenty of these trademark disputes before and just like many of those, this one was settled without a peep from either party about the terms. That likely would have been the last of it but on Thursday, Consor, a company that helps evaluate intellectual property, posted a release to the Web titled "Consor Intellectual Asset Management Secures Success for Four Clients."

In a teaser line under the headline, the company wrote: "iAds, a 7-figure settlement from Apple Computer in a trademark infringement case."

Now here's the odd part: Consor is now backpedaling from that release. Not long after posting the note to the Web, Consor tried to take it down. Doug Bania, who oversees Consor's business development and licensing units, at first told CNET that the announcement was never posted. When he was informed that the note was on the Web, he said some of the information "wasn't accurate" and declined to say anything more. Apple representatives weren't immediately available for comment.

In the body of the release the company wrote "Imagine [Innovate Media's] surprise earlier this year when Steve Jobs announced Apple's new advertising platform for the iPhone called "iAd.The comprehensive confusion analysis and quantification of economic damages performed by Consor were instrumental to Innovate Media reaching a highly favorable settlement with Apple."

Consor's note posted three months after Apple and Innovate Media settled the case.

So what? A big company is accused of trampling over someone's trademark and pays them to end the dispute. These settlements are typically done quietly, without disclosing how much money changed hands -- unless the amount is so large it will have an impact on the company's earnings. That goes double for Apple, where silence and secrecy are golden.

So did Consor err in the post and Apple didn't pay seven figures to settle the case? Or did Consor err by spilling the beans?

This is Apple. We may never know.