MACMULL'S MUSINGS

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Ay-yi-yie over Apple's iPhone


Increasingly, where there lies technology there lies a dispute, whether the claim is real or imagined. Apple's recent announcement that it will begin selling its long anticipated iPhone appears to be no different. Details here.

In a nut shell, Cisco Systems is claiming that it owns the trademark rights to the term "iPhone," which it acquried back in 2000 when it bought Infogear Technology (Who?). The USPTO trademark registry clearly shows CISCO owning a registered mark in the term "iPhone," so there is certainly some merit to Cisco's claim. Further troubling for Apple is that the mark was registered more than 5 years ago, and therefore, is barred from a petition for cancellation under U.S. trademark rules. However, as I see it the real "meat and potatoes" of this case is going to come down to Cisco's actual use. That is, despite Cisco's registration of the mark can they demonstrate actual prior use. Read Cisco's PR position here. Read their legal position (which is not nearly as apologetic) here.

Let the depositions begin ...

It was over before it began...


Last week, the New York State Bar Association released it new Rules on Advertising for Lawyers, which are to take effect February 1, 2007. Among other things, the new Rules limit the way in which attorneys and law firms can display information about their practice which covers the use of domain names and blogs.

Highlights of these rules can be found here. If you'd like to see a complete version of these rules let me know and I'll email them to you.
Concerned that perhaps even this little innocent blog would have to sport the rather unattractive adornment of "Attorney Advertising" blatantly labelled across the top of my site, I researched the issue a little further and discovered that thankfully it seems joelmacmull.com has been sparred such an indecency. Interestingly however, it seems that such notable legal publications such as "Super Lawyers" are not as lucky, as one of the new rules clearly states: "An advertisement shall not utilize a nickname, moniker, motto or trade name that implies an ability to obtain results in a matter. " Ah ... "super" certainly isn't "best efforts" or "mediocre."
I'm all for protecting the rights of consumers from fraud and misleading legal advertisements, but I'm really at a loss here to understand what interests the State of New York may have in regulating the use of such innocuous language, particularly where such language is used by an independent publication like a legal directory.
Last Word: On Monday, I had a discussion about these rules with an attorney from Ralph Nader's Consumer Protection outfit, Public Citizen. Apparently, they too have some real concerns with these rules and are entertaining filing a law suit prior to the rules coming into effect. Any developments will be reported here.