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Cisco Exec: iPhone Lawsuit Not About The Money

Cisco's trademark infringement lawsuit against Apple over the use of iPhone is not about money or licensing, according to Mark Chandler, Cisco VP and General Counsel. Mr. Chandler posted a corporate blog entry on the lawsuit in a public relations move to cast the suit as an effort to protect Cisco's trademark on the name, and not an attempt get money from Apple.

He also said that his company had been in negotiations for "weeks" with Apple to find a way for the two companies to share the mark. According to the blog entry, Cisco was pushing for future interoperability between its iPhone and Apple's iPhone as a concession for Apple to use the name on its new cell phone.

"Fundamentally we wanted an open approach," wrote Mr. Chandler. "We hoped our products could interoperate in the future. In our view, the network provides the basis to make this happen -- it provides the foundation of innovation that allows converged devices to deliver the services that consumers want. Our goal was to take that to the next level by facilitating collaboration with Apple. And we wanted to make sure to differentiate the brands in a way that could work for both companies and not confuse people, since our products combine both web access and voice telephony. That's it. Openness and clarity."

For its part, Apple said shortly after Cisco announced its suit that it thought the lawsuit was "silly," blunt words in the world of corporate PR fights. Cisco's Mr. Chandler chose an oblique way to answer that charge, by rhetorically asking what Apple would do in Cisco's place.

"At Macworld," he wrote, "Apple discussed the patents pending on their new phone technology. They clearly seem to value intellectual property. If the tables were turned, do you think Apple would allow someone to blatantly infringe on their rights? How would Apple react if someone launched a product called iPod but claimed it was ok to use the name because it used a different video format? Would that be ok? We know the answer -- Apple is a very aggressive enforcer of their trademark rights. And that needs to be a two-way street."

It should be noted that it's rare for company execs at large firms like Cisco to publicly comment on ongoing litigation. In such situations, the lawyers more often than not want commentary from their clients kept out of the public discourse to ensure nothing comes back to hurt their court room efforts.

That Mr. Chandler, himself an attorney, chose to take his position public via a blog entry might suggest that this will be much more of a public fight than a legal one. Like the public ruckous between IDG World Expos former president Charlie Greco and Apple CEO Steve Jobs over the move of the East Coast Macworld back to Boston from New York, there is likely to be more public name calling and attempts at spin control from both Apple and Cisco.

Dave Hamilton contributed to this article.

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