Back in June Apple faced off against a Mexican telecom over the trademarked word “iFone.” In that case, the iFone telecommunications company argued that Apple had infringed its trademark with the iPhone. A court ruled that because telecom services and telephone hardware aren’t the same product, there should be no confusion among consumers about which is which.
Unfortunately for mobile carriers in the country, because they do offer telecommunications services, they were barred from using the name “iPhone” in marketing materials.
Now an Indian mobile phone manufacturer called iVoice Enterprises Limited is taking Apple to task over a similarly named product, this time called the “iFon.”
The body that governs India’s trademarks, the Intellectual Property Appellate Board, has been petitioned by iVoice to revoke Apple’s trademark in that nation. The company has a bit of an advantage over the Mexican “iFone” case in that both iVoice and Apple attempted to trademark a mobile phone name, not a service. That’s about the only thing it has going in its favor, though.
iVoice was founded in 2007, after the announcement of the first-generation iPhone, and originally planned for its own iFon to be a cheap, but feature-rich cell phone. The name was created to stand for “India Phone,” according to the Times of India. The iFon trademark was registered in May that year.
In 2008, Vodafone announced that it would be bringing the iPhone to India, and Apple filed a motion against the iVoice trademark, noting that it was phonetically similar to the iPhone’s name. In 2009 the iPhone 3GS launched in the country as iVoice’s investors continued to drop support for the organization thanks to Apple’s motion.
By 2010, the iFon was still said to be on the way, and iVoice had finished filing a counterclaim against Apple, but the damage was already done. Without the backing of its domestic and overseas partners, iVoice had to admit defeat. The company now claims that Apple’s petition to remove its trademark caused “irrecoverable financial impact on our business model” and has since scuttled the project entirely.
Apple was recently asked for an official response to the trademark claim, indicating that the Appellate Board has reviewed the case as presented by iVoice and is moving on to the next stages of the dispute. The process is far from over, but Apple certainly has an advantage since it filed for the mark all the way back in 2006 (versus mid-2007 for iVoice).