Mexican iFone to seek damages after iPhone ruling

MEXICO CITY, June 6 Fri Jun 6, 2014 3:09pm EDT

MEXICO CITY, June 6 (Reuters) - Mexican telecommunications company iFone said on Friday, after winning a trademark ruling, it aims to seek damages from three local cellphone providers for using the Apple brand iPhone to sell services.

The Mexican Institute for Industrial Property (IMPI), Mexico's trademark body, on Thursday said it had ruled against America Movil, Telefonica and Iusacell. It upheld a complaint by iFone SA de C.V. that their use of the "iPhone" name to market smartphone plans infringed the Mexican company's rights.

Iusacell is jointly owned by Televisa and TV Azteca, which dominate the television market.

That decision opened the door to a civil suit against the three cellphone providers, which iFone lawyer Eduardo Gallastegui said the company would pursue.

"So as to claim the damages the law gives us a right to due to the infringement," he said.

According to the law, Gallastegui said, iFone could expect to claim at least 40 percent of the value of the three cellphone companies' sales made using the iPhone name. That claim could be worth more than $1 billion, he added.

The cellphone providers have the right to appeal the IMPI's decision and iFone has not yet begun its suit. The case is likely take a long time, Gallastegui said.

IMPI said it had found for iFone because the three companies were marketing services for something registered as a product, the iPhone. That caused confusion with iFone's business, the IMPI said. Apple was not directly affected by the decision.

However, Gallastegui said he believed Apple would have to pay compensation to the three Mexican phone companies if iFone was awarded damages in a civil suit.

"The one that started this whole controversy five years ago was Apple. They're the ones who tried to cancel the brand name of iFone," the lawyer said.

Apple in 2009 sued iFone over use of the brand name. But the U.S. company eventually lost the case.

Mexico's iFone registered its name in 2003, some four years before Apple introduced the iPhone, the IMPI said. (Reporting by Dave Graham; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)

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