Apple granted right to use iPhone name in Brazil

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Apple (Nasdaq: APPL) has been granted the right to use the iPhone brand in Brazil, overturning a previous ruling from Brazilian intellectual property institute INPI which granted exclusive rights to local electronics manufacturer Gradiente, according to press reports.

The decision was issued by a court in Rio de Janeiro.

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Apple had appealed INPI's ruling arguing that Gradiente's right over the iPhone name should have expired, as the Brazilian firm did not trade any products under that name in the five years after it was granted ownership. INPI granted Gradiente the patent in January 2008.

Gradiente launched its iPhone device in December 2012, less than a month before the patent was due to expire, as stated by Brazilian laws. Gradiente filed for the rights to the iPhone brand in Brazil 12 years ago, well before Apple's iPhone launch.

The court in Rio ruled that IGB Electronica, Gradiente's controlling company, cannot be the exclusive owner of the brand.

The judge claimed, among other things, that the iPhone brand gained visibility due to the worldwide success of Apple's device and that INPI should have considered the market context before conceding exclusive rights to Gradiente.

The judge also ruled in his decision that Gradiente's name was just the combination of "internet" and "phone", referring to a mobile phone with internet access, while Apple already had an extensive "i" product line, registered in several countries.

IGB said it will appeal the decision. The company argued that INPI's decision reinforces its claim. It also added that a suit filed against Apple in a São Paulo court has yet to come to trial.

The Rio court decision represents a victory, albeit partial, for Apple after a series of trademark defeats in emerging markets.

In 2012, Mexican telecoms firm iFone also successfully fended off a lawsuit from Apple regarding brand name infringement. In another case, Apple paid Taiwanese tech firm Proview around US$60mn to trademark the word iPad.