Apple, Cisco return to talks in iPhone suit

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SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Apple Inc. and Cisco Systems Inc. are apparently suspending their court battle over the iPhone to return to the negotiations table.

Although Cisco's lawsuit against Apple remains pending, the two companies have agreed to extend the time Apple has to respond so that the parties can discuss trademark rights and interoperability, the companies said late Wednesday. The aim, they said, is to reach an agreement over the matter.

San Jose-based Cisco, which makes routers and switches to link networks and power the Internet, has owned the trademark on the name "iPhone" since 2000 and began shipping its own line of iPhone-branded Internet-enabled phones in the spring of 2006.

Then when Apple announced its cell phone-iPod-Internet communications device last month and called it "iPhone," negotiations between the tech companies ended with a loud thud. Cisco sued Apple the following day claiming trademark infringement.

Cisco claims Apple's new device is "deceptively and confusingly similar" to its own line of wireless phones from Cisco's Linksys division. Cupertino-based Apple says it's entitled to use the name "iPhone" because its device operates over a cellular network, unlike Cisco's phones, which use the Internet. Apple plans to start selling its iPhone in June.

During a recent conference call with analysts, Apple's Chief Operating Officer Tim Cook called the Cisco lawsuit "silly" and said Cisco's trademark registration was "tenuous at best."

"If Cisco wants to challenge us," Cook said, "we're confident we'll prevail."

Under federal law, two companies may share a trademark as long as their uses aren't confusingly similar. Apple has battled another Apple over trademark before: Apple Corps, the Beatles' recording company, had sued the computer company over its entry into the music business.

Despite the more recent legal skirmish, Cisco is pushing ahead with its own Linksys iPhone. It took out a full page ad in Thursday's edition of The New York Times to promote the product and included the small "R" for registered trademark next to the name.

The ad, touting "iPhone: More than talk!" featured two women sitting back to back on a grassy field, one using a phone and the other a laptop -- an Apple laptop.


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