Apple to lose iPhone trademark in Brazil

After spending $60M to repurchase the iPad trademark in China, it is is in danger of losing the iPhone brand in the country.

By Benzinga Feb 7, 2013 12:11PM
The Apple Inc logo is displayed on the back of the new MacBook Pro David Paul Morris Bloomberg via Getty ImagesBy Louis Bedigian

Brazil's copyright regulator is set to "strip Apple (AAPL) of the right to use its iPhone trademark in Latin America's biggest market" and grant the trademark to a local company that registered it more than a decade ago, according to Reuters.

This isn't the first time Apple had to deal with trademark issues. Last year, the iPad maker paid $60 million to settle a dispute in China over ownership of the iPad name (read on Benzinga).

As Reuters reports, Gradiente Eletronica SA, a Brazil-based consumer electronics manufacturer, registered the "iphone" name (without capitalization of the "P") in 2000. Apple did not release the first iPhone until 2007.

Similar events occurred when Microsoft (MSFT) announced the original Xbox. Another company, Xbox Technologies, had already purchased the Xbox trademark in America. Microsoft eventually settled the dispute with the company, according to media reports, which agreed to change its name for an undisclosed sum of money. (Microsoft owns and publishes Top Stocks, an MSN Money site.)

Back then, the Xbox brand was all but worthless. It was merely the start of an empire. At the time, no one knew how successful Xbox would become.

The same cannot be said for the iPhone. While Gradiente Eletronica SA trademarked the "iphone" name independently (and years before) Apple, the legal problems did not arise when the device was first unveiled. Unfortunately for Apple, they surfaced now -- just days after it was revealed that the company sold 47.8 million iPhones during the last quarter alone. Those are huge figures -- and they could mean a big payday for Gradiente Eletronica SA.

If the iPad name was worth $60 million to Apple in China, one can only imagine how much the iPhone name will be worth in Brazil.

According to Reuters, the Brazilian Institute of Intellectual Property will officially announce its decision on Wednesday, February 13. Apple will be allowed to challenge the ruling if it loses its trademark.

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