The iPhone is coming to Brazil. Again. Earlier this month, Apple finally brought its iconic handset to the country, but it turns out there's now a second manufacturer planning to release a handset under the same name. That's because IGB Electronica SA (under its Gradiente brand) today announced an "iphone" of its own. Like IGB's existing devices, the iphone Neo One will run Google's Android operating system. It seems like a clear trademark violation, but in fact IGB applied for the rights to use the "iphone" moniker in Brazil back in 2000 — years before Steve Jobs famously unveiled Apple's first smartphone. Thus the company insists it has exclusive local rights to market a handset by that name.
Is another trademark dispute nearing?
Apple has faced such challenges before. It was forced to license the "IOS" trademark from Cisco, which originally held ownership in the United States. Apple also failed to stop sales of the iFone in Mexico. Similar obstacles have greeted the iPad. Proview Electronics brought lawsuits against Apple both in the US and China over the brand, with the international front costing Apple $60 million. Assuming Apple doesn't pursue litigation of its own — the Neo One looks more like an HTC clone than an iPhone knockoff — it may seek to reach an amicable agreement over the iPhone trademark in Brazil.
Update: IGB indeed sought to obtain an iphone trademark back in 2000 but met stiff resistance in its attempt to do so. Apple would later file for the iPhone brand in 2006, ahead of the first model's launch, and was granted the trademark. Thus it appears the law is squarely in Cupertino's favor in this instance. Whether Apple deems IGB's new Android device to be worthy of its legal team's attention is another matter.
An earlier version of this article stated that Apple had lost its iPhone trademark in Mexico. That is inaccurate. In actuality, the company lost an appeal to halt sales of the "iFone" device in the country.