neo one small

International trademark, patent, and copyright law is a bit of a legal minefield, and Apple has proven itself to be among the best in navigating it these last few years. But there is one exception to their otherwise impressive track record: the lucrative South American market of Brazil. While Apple iPhones have been sold in the country for years, Apple has never owned the trademark for the name. A regional phone manufacturer, Gradiente Eletronica, registered the trademark for "iphone" way back in 2000.

iphone neo one

That didn't stop Cupertino's legal bulldogs from suing Gradiente after they released the iPhone Neo One, a ~$300 mid-range Gingerbread phone, in December. Today a Brazilian court dismissed the case and upheld Gradiente's trademark, denying Apple exclusive rights to the name in the country. The iPhone Neo One is the first Gradiente smartphone that uses the iconic name, more than twelve years after the application was filed and four years after it was officially accepted in 2008. It doesn't resemble Apple's iPhone, or at least no more so than any other slate Android design.

That said, Gradiente seems to be rubbing the legal situation in a bit. You don't need to know Portuguese to get the gist of this promotional video, posted on the iPhone Neo One's marketing page.

According to a report by the BBC, Brazilian law does not require trademark holders to reasonably defend their brand - it's a first come, first served system. That makes Apple's suit somewhat moot, despite the fact that they've poured millions of dollars into the product and brand over the last six years while Gradiente has done almost nothing with its trademark.The ruling means that Graiente can sue Apple for trademark infringement at any time with a reasonable expectation of success.

Newshounds might recall that before the original iPhone launched, Apple settled with Cisco, then the owner of the "iphone" trademark in the US and UK thanks to a previous line of VOIP devices. Gradiente may be looking for a similar payout here: a company chairman was quoted as saying, "We're open to a dialogue for anything, anytime... we're not radicals." A cynical observer of international business might conclude that Gradiente released a single "iPhone" model specifically for this purpose.

Apple will likely appeal the case to the Brazilian Institute of Industrial Property.

Source: BBC

Jeremiah Rice
Jeremiah is a US-based blogger who bought a Nexus One the day it came out and never looked back. In his spare time he watches Star Trek, cooks eggs, and completely fails to write novels.
  • http://www.twitter.com/Genjinaro Genjinaro

    LOL, why start with suing, knowing full well you'd loose (easily) the case? Just ask, negotiate a cost (Billions to waste on cases anyway, why not?) & keep it moving.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000003999549 Mike Harris

      So loose that they'd lose it.

      • http://www.twitter.com/Genjinaro Genjinaro

        LOL whoops.

    • Tomi Golob

      it's a so-called tactical risk approach ... you know there is a risk of losing, but if you win it would benefit you far more than the cost ratio of losing . In essence ,for a far smaller sum (compared to the "win scenario" gains)they can hire lawyers that could make Apple more wealthy and if they lose it doesn't hurt them (an appropriate analogy would be something like losing 1 cent in a game of chance)

  • gladgura

    hahaha.... hahahahahahahahaha

  • http://logit42.com Reita
    • Matthew Fry

      I love it! Apple sues and comes away owing iFone.

  • DeadSOL

    "A cynical observer of international business might conclude that Gradiente released a single "iPhone" model specifically for this purpose."

    That made me laugh really hard! :D

  • Carlos Paix√£o

    Legit Brazilian way to LMFAO:


    • Maxorq


    • Mauro Moraes


    • Felipe Pimenta


    • Elias

      Chupa, Apple!

  • Eduardo da Silva

    Gradiente should sue Apple. But the Apple's marketshare in Brasil is ridiculously little.

    • Felipe Pimenta

      That's what you think. Maybe with Macs, but a hell lot of people, just like the Americans shown in the galaxy ads, are stupid as that. The 64 Gb iphone 5 launched here at the salty price of R$ 3000 (around 1500 USD). and there was a line of around 100 people in 3 different stores to buy it.

      • http://www.facebook.com/leonel.martucci Leonel Martucci

        300 people in a country of 150 million? amazing.

        • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000003999549 Mike Harris

          I know you were trying to be funny, but you know he meant 3 different stores in his area/city/town - not 3 stores in the entire country.

          • Felipe Pimenta

            Only 3 stores, in 2 cities (making that 6 stores) made the pre porder. That was on pre order, at Mid night. That only at launch day.

      • Eduardo da Silva

        No it's not what i think, it's what the numbers says. You can see here, Android has half of marketshare in Brasil, meanwhile Apple has just 0,4%.


  • LTame

    Gradiente didn't just register the trademark in 2000. Gradiente iphone was a real phone:

  • http://twitter.com/WillieFDiazSF William Diaz

    This is exactly how copyright law should be. Whomever has it, owns it, period.

    • Tomi Golob

      trademarking like that is a double edged knife. What if some douche corporation starts trademarking every word that could possibly be used in the future for some consumer electronic device?(they would have to add some designs for the device too , but that's not impossible ) They then have to just wait and sue. Similar thing is with the website hostname registration , where people registered a site like galaxy-s4.com and hope that Samsung would then want that hostname and buy them off... maybe not such a good example, but you know what I mean

  • Fernando

    Suck it Apple. kkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkk hahahahahhahahhahah

  • CeluGeek

    I find curious that in that video from Gradente, what they show as their first iphone from back in is a ripoff of the Nokia 7100-series phone. I had a Nokia 7160 and it did support Internet... as much as you could call browsing text-only WAP sites over a 9.6kbps CSD data connection, Internet.

    Nokia 7110 (GSM version) in WIkipedia.

    • MrDude

      If I'm not mistaken, it is in fact a 7100, they had a partnership in 2000. They also released some HTC phones with their brand way back.

  • Matthew Fry

    I gotta say... it feels good to see the largest company in the US not getting what they want every once in a while. You know, in the late 90s and early 2000's I actually felt bad for Apple. Now everything they do has this air of arrogance that I hate.

    • http://codytoombs.wordpress.com/ Cody Toombs

      Largest company in the US? They have the highest market cap in the US (which is fairly trivial), but otherwise, they are actually a pretty small company. Microsoft dwarfs Apple several times over, and Microsoft doesn't even remotely compare to companies like Boeing.

      • Matthew Fry

        My mistake. Largest market cap. Most profitable tech business in the US.

  • GraveUypo

    here's a quick translation by me of the clip:

    In the year 2000, Gradiente had bet on a promissing idea: getting phones and internet merged into a single package.

    Our marketing guys soon thought of a fitting name: Internet Phone. But that name was a bit too long, so they shortened it to "Iphone".

    There! The world's first "iphone" was then released here in brazil: The Gradiente Iphone. Instant Success!

    Gradiente then went to the INPI (National institute for intelectual property) and registered the brand in that same year.

    In 2008, the INPI confirmed the registry of the brand for Gradiente. Too bad the company was just recovering financially [from a crisis], and waiting on it's grand return to the market to re-release it's products.

    Seven years after Gradiente's iphone, another super-competent technology company, which a genius head figure, released their own version of an iphone in brazil, even though the name was already owned by gradiente in the country.

    Now, in 2012, Gradiente's finally back on it's feet, and re-releases it's "gradiente iphone". But they don't want anyone to get confused. So now that you already know the brand's history, get ready to learn what's the difference between the two devices.

    Apple's device is faster, has a better resolution screen, aside from some other resources, and it runs on the IOS Operating System

    Gradiente's iphone is also a very capable device. It runs on the consolidated android operating system, has simpler resources, but it has a with a little something brazillians love: it's dual-sim capable.

    See? We're here to clear things up. Now you know Gradiente's history, and our device.


    anyway, gradiente is a piece of crap company that was scrapping the bottom of the barrel for the last 10 years, and they're just hoping to ride a little bit on apple's back. though i have to say this video made me see them in a brighter light.
    btw, gradiente's iphone wouldn't pass as a mid-end 2011 android phone. it's really crap.

    • Jeremiah Rice

      Thanks for the translation and the local context.

  • Dr. George Jungle MDG

    LOL score one for the little guys

  • BFS

    I'm laughing in apple's arrogant face!

    • Tomi Golob

      *pointing finger at Apple's face* "HAA!"

  • lol

    LOL Gradiente should rub salt in the wound and say:
    "OK, you want iphone name? Come to us, we play you in one game of soccer... you win, you have name"
    Even grandmas own your ass in that game over there!

  • http://codytoombs.wordpress.com/ Cody Toombs

    9 times out of 10, I love to see Apple take a slap like this. However, this is one of those other times I'm a little bothered by the implications. Imagine if somebody in Brazil decided to sue Samsung over the Galaxy branding? After Google launched GMail, there were a few suits in multiple european countries over the trademark and domain name, some of the plaintifs weren't even using the name. It's expected that there should be collisions from time to time when a name is created and used worldwide; but to protect a name that was obviously abandoned for so long is going to discourage companies from even doing business in your country when it will result in expensive legal disputes. If it were Google or HTC that this happened to, we'd all be calling out the trademark owner as a troll.

    Ok, it's still funny that this happened to Apple, I just don't like that it could happen to somebody else.