Apple loses iPhone naming rights in Brazil (update)

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Update: The Brazilian Institute of Industrial Property has ruled that Apple does not hold exclusive rights to the "iPhone" trademark in the country. According to the BBC, the decision only applies to handset devices, and won’t prevent Apple from marketing its popular smartphone under the iPhone brand unless IGB Electronica exercises its option of suing for complete, exclusive control over the trademark.

Apple still has the option to appeal and if that fails the company will probably have to shell out a few millions for the naming rights. Cupertino will keep some exclusivity over the “iPhone" name when the trademark is used for anything other than smartphones.

Original story is below.

Apple will reportedly lose the right to use the iPhone trademark in Latin America in the near future. A source familiar with the decision recently told Reuters that Brazil’s copyright regulator will strip Apple of the rights and award it to a local consumer electronics maker.

According to the source, the trademark will soon belong to Gradiente Electronica SA, a company that allegedly registered the “iphone” name in 2000 – a full seven years before Apple launched their now iconic handset.

IGB Electronica SA, a company that came about after Gradiente restructured, launched their own Android-based “iphone” last December in black and white, just like Apple’s offering. The phone sells for just over $300, we’re told.

In a separate story from Bloomberg, IGB chairman Eugenio Emilio Staub said he would consider selling the naming rights to Apple and they were open to dialogue for anything at any time. A similar incident in China last year saw Chinese electronics company Proview give up their rights to the “ipad” trademark for a cool $60 million.

We are hearing that the Brazilian Institute of Intellectual Property will make the decision official on February 13. The publication said an Apple spokesperson in Brazil declined to comment but Cupertino could challenge the ruling locally after the decision is made public.

The timing seems well calculated as Apple is just now targeting Brazil as a region for key growth. As such, it seems unlikely that Apple will stop selling their smartphone in the country. We suspect them to either appeal the decision or purchase rights to the trademark outright.

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