Apple likely to settle iCloud trademark lawsuit, says legal expert

Arizona company iCloud Communications takes Apple to federal court

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"A trademark from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office expands that area nationwide," he noted, but isn't necessarily the determining legal factor in ownership.

"The point is that two different people can use the same trademark," Salai said. "The law lets them do that. Of course, that was a lot easier prior to the Internet."

In its complaint, iCloud Communications claimed that it used the trademark in its sales, marketing and trade show messaging since 2005, and by doing so, had established "significant goodwill and valuable rights in and ownership to the iCloud Marks in connection with computer telephony and electronic data transmission and storage services."

Key to the case, said Salai, is whether iCloud Communications can show an overlap between its services and Apple's. The latter is slated to launch in full this fall.

Salai also anticipated that iCloud Communications would oppose Apple's trademark registrations with the USPTO. "I would expect iCloud Communications to oppose those applications," he said.

If iCloud Communications' claims are accurate -- that it's used the mark since 2005, and used it widely -- Salai said Apple would likely settle the dispute out of court. "It's speculative, but if what iCloud Communications alleges is true, then Apple will be forced to settle," Salai said.

But all bets are off if iCloud demands the farm.

"If a small company is looking for a reasonable settlement, Apple usually settles when they don't have a strong case," said Salai, referring to deals Apple has struck with in the past with trademark holders. "But if [iCloud Communications is looking for $100 million or so, Apple will probably take its chances [in court]."

In 2007, Apple and Cisco settled a trademark tussle over the "iPhone" trademark but did not disclose details of the deal. Last year, Apple acquired the "iPad" trademark from Fujitsu just days before the tablet's launch.

iCloud Communications' lawyers did not reply to a request for comment on the lawsuit.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at  @gkeizer or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His e-mail address is

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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