According to Brazilian local news publication Folha de S.Paulo (via Reuters), the INPI (Brazil’s Instituto Nacional da Propriedade Industrial) has ruled that Apple does not hold the trademark for the iPhone name in the country. Instead, exclusive rights to the trademark belong to Brazilian electronics maker IGB. According to the court, IGB Electronica registered the name in 2000, long before Apple released their smartphone.
Last December, the company launched an Android smartphone called IPHONE Neo One for R$599 (about $300 USD, device pictured above). All may not be lost for Apple, however – according to several sources, including Bloomberg and Reuters, the company is willing to consider selling the trademark to Apple, and is open to discussion (quoted below via Bloomberg):
The owner of the iPhone trademark in Brazil, IGB Eletronica SA, said it would consider selling the naming rights to Apple Inc.
“We’re open to a dialogue for anything, anytime,” said Eugenio Emilio Staub, chairman of IGB, in an interview in Sao Paulo. “We’re not radicals.”
Apple has apparently not contacted IGB yet, according to company chairman Eugenio Emilio Staub, and it remains to be seen whether or not Apple attempts to settle with the company for the rights – although I would suspect that it is likely. Apple attempted to secure rights to the trademark in 2006, about 8 months before they announced the iPhone, but were unable to secure it.
It’s possible for Apple to challenge the ruling – but in the meantime, the company is left unable to sell the iPhone in Brazil without renaming it. With that in mind, it may well be worth it for Apple to purchase the trademark from IGP rather than wait for the lengthy and uncertain court process to challenge the ruling.
The case feels very similar to the battle between Apple and Proview over the Chinese iPad trademark – and Apple eventually ended up purchasing the trademark from Provieew for $60 million in that case. It will be interesting to see how this plays out!