Is Apple Headed For Another Costly International Trademark Battle?

After fighting to secure its iPad trademark in China, Apple appears poised to engage in another costly trademark battle overseas. Brazil’s copyright authority recently ruled that the iPhone trademark rights belong to a local company, Gradiente Eletronica SA.

As with many international trademark systems, Brazil awards trademark registration to the first party to file, without taking into account who used the trademark first, or which party is more closely associated with the brand. In this case, Gradiente first applied for a trademark in 2000, six years prior to Apple’s subsequent trademark application and launch of the popular iPhone product.

Gradient was awarded the iPhone trademark in January 2008, according to The Wall Street Journal. Under Brazil’s trademark law, in order to gain exclusive rights, it was required to sell a product making use of the mark within five years. In December 2012, the company announced an Android-based smartphone called the “IPHONE Neo One.”

According to Brazil’s National Institute of Industrial Property (INPI), Apple is now contesting whether Gradient used the brand within the required time frame. Gradient has sixty days to respond.

Should INPI uphold the ruling, Apple could resort to the court system or try to work out a financial settlement. Either way, it appears that Apple may have another costly legal battle on its hands.

As this post highlights, it can be more difficult to protect trademarks and other IP rights overseas.

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