Names and Trademarks

When Apple debuted the iPhone in 2007, everyone was impressed. Well, not everyone: The lawyers at Cisco Systems weren’t thrilled. They acknowledged that it was a “cool phone,” but they also pointed out that they owned the registered trademark, “iPhone”—they’d owned it since 2000 when they had acquired another company. (A trademark is any name, logo, symbol, or device that identifies one company’s products and services and distinguishes them from others—like Google, O’Reilly, and Amazon, for example.)

Why would Apple debut a product with a name that was registered to a competitor? The answer is that, in the rarified world where companies like Apple and Cisco play, trademark disputes are as common as flashlight apps. They have huge legal departments to sort out such cases.

Unless you’ve got a team of attorneys on call, you can’t operate with similar disregard for trademark rights. If you do, you may have your app pulled by Apple or find your mailbox packed with cease and desist letters. Your goal should be to avoid infringing on someone else’s mark and to be prepared to pursue others who tread on yours. This chapter gives you advice on choosing a trademark in the first place, then walks you through the process of registering your mark so you can get maximum legal protection. Finally, you’ll learn a little about trademark infringement so you can avoid ending up in a legal battle.

Note: When a trademark is used to identify services instead of goods—like iTunes ...

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