Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) is unrivaled when it comes to making consumers lust after its newest products. But it seems to have developed a habit of picking the names of its new products without much regard for who might already be using those phrases. The newest battle didn’t take long to develop: just three days after Steve Jobs told the world about iCloud, a Phoenix-based VoIP company called iCloud Communications sued Apple on Friday, saying it’s the first, and only, legitimate user of the iCloud name.
iCloud Communications was formed in 2005, but apparently never registered a trademark in its name. (That doesn’t mean it can’t file a lawsuit-Arizona, like many states, allows for even businesses that don’t have registered trademarks to pursue a lawsuit over a “common law trademark” if they’ve been using the name for a while.)
The iCloud lawsuit [PDF] notes Apple’s history of grabbing names first, and dealing with legal issues later. Some of the recent prominent examples it notes: the lawsuit brought by Cisco (NSDQ: CSCO) over the name iPhone (settled in 2007), the sparring over iPad (an iPad trademark was owned by Fujitsu but apparently sold to Apple in 2010), and a May 2010 lawsuit over the term iAds.
This is likely going to be worked out way before trial. But Apple may end up cutting a check to the smaller company, as it likely did with Fujitsu to clear up the iPad issue. Apparently for Apple such sparring over words is a small cost to get its marketing right.
It’s worth noting that Apple has been pretty aggressive on the enforcement side of trademark law, filing lawsuits to stop competitors from using the phrase “app store,” and launching a legal attack on Samsung for allegedly copying its style in the smartphone market.
» Read iCloud Communications v. Apple [PDF]