Books written by Ray Sullivan

Saturday, 16 February 2013

The First Android iPhone

In the world of mobile phone operating systems, it's currently a two horse race between Apple's iOS and Google's Android system.  Apologies to Microsoft and all the other tertiary operating systems out there - and there are a few - it's the aforementioned two that dominate the market right now.

It's fairly clear to anyone who pays the slightest interest in the industry that Apple and Google aren't bedfellows in the slightest - there does appear to be frisson of friction as they compete.  And it's equally clear that iOS ain't Android and vice versa.

So when an Android phone pops up and it's called iPhone, it isn't surprising that Apple take legal action to protect its trademark.  They do have a history of attempting to protect their product names - last year they attempted to prevent a Chinese company from using the iPad name on its products.  To be fair, the company had been using the name for quite a few years before Apple decided to use it and Apple did think they'd actually bought the name from the company.  Unfortunately the people who sold the name to Apple weren't, in the opinion of the Chinese courts, authorised to sell it to Apple and the US company ended up paying twice for the rights to use the name, the second time at an inflated price as the iPad brand was so valuable by that point.

But this is different as the company involved, Gradienta Electrronica, a Brazilian firm, has owned the name since 2000.  To be accurate they started the registration process in 2000 and it was granted in 2008.  Apple attempted to register the name in Brazil in 2006 but their registration was put on hold and eventually rejected because Gradienta already had a registration application in place.

Apple contend that the Gradienta trademark is inapplicable because they have allowed more than five years to elapse between application and use - I'm no legal expert, but it sounds like the Brazilian regulatory process is in part responsible for the delay.  I'm also not naive - the iMac range of computers was launched in 1998 and although Apple hadn't indicated it might enter the mobile phone market at that time the iBrand was established and perhaps, maybe, Gradienta were hoping to pick up some associative kudos by using an Apple-ish name, not realising that Apple would go the whole nine yards a few years later.

Whether it was a cynical leveraging of the Apple marque or a coincidence is probably moot; Gradiente did apply to register the name way before Apple and my hunch is that Apple are lucky Gradiente didn't take out a world-wide registration.  And to be fair, despite the Brazilian courts ruling in favour of Gradiente, Apple are still allowed to sell iPhones in Brazil - so no meaness there.  I'm not sure - no, I'm certain - that had the decision gone the other way Apple wouldn't have allowed Gradiente to continue to trade in Brazil with the iPhone name.

It is interesting to note, however, that the chairman of Gradiente has stated that they are prepared to  open a dialogue anytime - I'm assuming that means a transfer of a small part of Apple's cash stockpile might resolve the issue.  It worked with the Chinese.

In the meantime Apple are competing directly with an Android iPhone in what is possibly the key developing nation on the planet.  One to watch, I would suggest.


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