updated 11:49 pm EDT, Sun March 10, 2013
Said to be in talks with IGB Electrônica SA, iPhones still sold in Brazil
Apple and the holder of the trademark "iPhone" in Brazil, tech firm IGB Electrônica SA, are allegedly in talks to resolve a legal dispute that has seen the latter company release its own "iPhone" in the emerging market of Brazil. The firm, formerly known as IGB Gradiente, won a protracted court fight to the exclusive use of the name "iPhone" after it filed for the mark in 2000, years before Apple produced its own device. IGB only released its own iPhone in 2012, an Android-based device that runs Android OS 2.2 "Gingerbread."
Apple had argued in court that the company was no longer entitled to the mark after failing to produce a device for so long, but ultimately the Brazilian National Industrial Property Institute ruled against Apple. For its part, IGB has always signalled that it was willing to license the trademark and has never moved to bar Apple from selling its iPhone in Brazil -- and recently filed a document requesting that the court suspend any enforcement efforts while the two companies negotiated.
An unnamed source "with knowledge of the talks" has since told a Brazilian newspaper that the two firms are close to an agreement. Apple is likely looking for some arrangement to buy the trademark outright or at least be an exclusive licensee, forcing IGB's own "iPhone" off the market -- a demand that will likely merit a high pricetag.
Apple has had to pay for naming rights for products it wanted to release before. In addition to the partially-successful blackmailing of Apple by bankrupt monitor maker Proview over the rights to the name "iPad" in China, the company had to license the term "iTools" from Tenon for the original iteration of what is now iCloud, and lost a ruling for the exclusive use of the name "iPhone" in Mexico, among other examples.
The Brazilian market is an important one to Apple, so much so that it worked with manufacturing partner Foxconn to open an iPad and iPhone production plant in Brazil. The emergence of a stronger middle class in the country is considered a target market for the company's iPhone as it expands in the years ahead.