Linksys pips Apple to iPhone

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Linksys pips Apple to iPhone

New VoIP devices bear the unofficial name of Apple's much-anticipated mobile

The iPhone has finally hit the shelves, but not in the way that Apple fans were hoping.

Linksys introduced a series of seven VoIP devices on Monday under the 'iPhone' brand. The devices include cordless and wireless models that support Skype and Yahoo Messenger with voice services. Prices range from $79.99 to $369.99. 

The 'iPhone' name is noteworthy because media and analysts have used the name over the past year to indicate a mobile phone from Apple. The name was chosen because it resembles that of the 'iPod'.

According to the latest rumours, Apple is preparing to launch a mobile phone early next year. The company was also believed to be launching an iPhone last August, as well as last year when Motorola started selling its iTunes powered Rokr.

Apple has never given any indication that it plans to launch a phone, nor that it plans to name the device 'iPhone'.

But if Apple is preparing to launch an iPhone, the company will now be forced to use a different name.

A spokesman for Cisco, Linksys' parent company, said that Cisco acquired the trademark to the iPhone brand in 2000 through the purchase of Infogear Technologies. 

Apple first registered the internet domain name in 1999. The computer maker did not immediately return a request for comment.

The Cisco spokesman declined to comment on any dialogue between Apple and Cisco, but said that the company had no reason to believe that Apple ever intended to use the name 'iPhone' for its rumoured smartphone device.

Cisco's trademark would be worthless if the company never shipped a product, but its ownership claim would remain valid as long as the networking manufacturer showed an intent to use the brand in commerce within five years after filing for the trademark, according to Matthew Kabak, a San Francisco trademark and copyright lawyer. 

Apple does have a shot at obtaining the rights to the name, however, if it can prove that it applied to the trademark before Infogear, Kabak added.
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