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Apple's ownership of 'iPhone' name in Brazil in peril

Apple's ownership of the iPhone name in Brazil is reportedly under threat, with a local patent and trademark office planning to give exclusive rights to a Brazilian company.

Josh Lowensohn Former Senior Writer
Josh Lowensohn joined CNET in 2006 and now covers Apple. Before that, Josh wrote about everything from new Web start-ups, to remote-controlled robots that watch your house. Prior to joining CNET, Josh covered breaking video game news, as well as reviewing game software. His current console favorite is the Xbox 360.
Josh Lowensohn
2 min read
Josh Lowensohn/CNET

Apple could soon lose its rights to use the iPhone name in Brazil as part of a decision expected from the local patent and trademark office next week.

Citing an unnamed source, both Reuters and Folha de S.Paulo today say the Brazilian Institute of Intellectual Property plans to award an exclusive iPhone name trademark to Brazil-based electronics company Gradiente.

Gradiente filed for the iPhone naming rights in the country years before Apple's device came to be. However the company didn't put out its own iPhone-branded productuntil last December when it began selling a line of touch-screen smartphones running Google's Android.

In a release about the new products, Gradiente said it had secured the legal rights to the name through 2018.

An Apple spokesman declined to comment on the reports.

Apple famously wrested the rights to the iPhone name in the U.S. from Cisco Systems in early 2007, just months before the product's release. Cisco sued Apple for trademark infringement immediately after the iPhone was unveiled at the annual Macworld conference in January that same year. In its complaint, Cisco said Apple had approached the company over the name a number of times, even using a shell company in an attempt to acquire the moniker. The two ended up settling in February 2007.

Internationally the story has been a bit more interesting, including a fight in China over the rights to the "iPad" trademark with a company called Proview. That dispute, which threatened sales of the popular tablet in the country, was settled last Julyfor $60 million. A similar result is expected in Brazil if the patent office sides with Gradiente, with a report earlier today quoting a company official saying he was "open to a dialogue" of such a deal.