Introducing the iPhone, but not from Apple

Arik Hesseldahl
20 Dec 2006

A joke making the rounds on the Web Dec. 15 said the iPhone will be released on Dec. 18.

Here's the punch line: It's true. Not only that, but the company unveiling the device isn't Apple Computer. Instead, the manufacturer behind a series of new products bearing the iPhone name is Linksys, a unit of networking equipment maker Cisco Systems.

The company is announcing a series of Web-enabled telephone handsets designed to work with Internet calling services such as Skype, a division of eBay, and other services, including SIP Phone's Gizmo Project.

Registered trademark

For longtime tech watchers, Cisco's ownership of the iPhone name shouldn't come as a big surprise. Cisco has owned the trademark on the iPhone brand since 2000, when it acquired Infogear"”which had registered the name in 1996. Infogear showed an Internet appliance bearing the iPhone name at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in 1997. Cisco spent $301 million to acquire Infogear in 2000. It later acquired Linksys, a maker of consumer home-networking products, in 2003.

Linksys' announcement comes amid increasingly persistent speculation that Apple is on the verge of announcing a wireless phone that includes some of the music-playing features of its popular iPod music players. The name‾ Let's just say many thought it would start with an 'i.' Apple CEO Steve Jobs is widely expected to announce some kind of phone device at the Macworld Expo trade show in San Francisco on Jan. 9. Apple had no comment.

Trademark filings for use of the iPhone name have been spotted in countries outside the U.S., and Apple rumor sites recently raised eyebrows with the discovery that the Internet domain points to

What's in a name‾

There's no telling what an Apple telephone device will be called, and presumably Apple could use the iPhone name under an arrangement with Cisco. Indeed, Apple's very corporate moniker is split between itself and Apple Corps, the British holding company created by the Beatles in the 1960s.

Still, it's no match made in high-tech heaven. A contract limits the scope under which each party may use the Apple name, and as the computer company's activities have expanded over the course of nearly three decades in business, the two companies have sued each other over the finer points of how to interpret that contract.

Cisco's reputation is built on making the routers and switches that direct traffic around the Internet and catering to a client base that includes the world's largest corporations and providers of communications services. But increasingly, Cisco is transforming into a maker of devices aimed at consumers too.

Dennis Vogel, a product manager for Cisco, says the use of the iPhone name is part of a larger strategic vision concerning networked homes.

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