Apple Battles iPhoney Imitators in Brazil and Mexico


You think Apple was the first to think of the iPhone? Well, OK, maybe they thought up the iPhone, but there was somebody in front of them who cooked up the IPHONE. And now the smartphone-buying public of Brazil will get to be confused by them.

An earlier incarnation of IGB Eletronica SA, a Brazilian consumer electronics manufacturer, applied for exclusive rights in Brazil to register its products under the name IPHONE way back in 2000. Apple’s iPhone didn’t launch until seven years later. There was no confusion for more than a decade since IGB hasn’t released any products under that name. But that is all about to change.

IGB will start selling its $290 Android-based IPHONE in Brazil with the first model called Neo One, Reuters reports. This news comes only a week after Apple started selling its iPhone 5 in the country.

It doesn’t appear that Apple will take IGB to court, particularly after losing a battle last month with a Mexican telecommunications company that is selling the – wait for it — iFone. In fact, the Wall Street Journal reports that IGB may end up filing suit against Apple: “The two brands can’t coexist in the market,” said Eugenio Staub, president of IGB’s Gradiente. “It’s up to Apple to make a move.”[more]

In the iFone debacle, the Mexican Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case now that lower courts have ruled against Apple. If Apple loses there, it may have to fork over damages for using the name to the makers of the iFone, the Journal points out.

Back in Brazil, Apple did attempt to trademark “iPhone” back in 2006 but the interim director of Brazil’s National Institute of Industrial Property, Silvia Rodrigues, told the Journal that it will likely be rejected: “For telephones, the brand doesn’t belong to Apple,” she said. 

But Brazil is a big target market for Apple. reports that CEO Tim Cook named the country the next area of the world Apple will focus its efforts on after China. So Apple will have to figure out some way to differentiate itself.