Brazilian firm loses court battle with Apple over iPhone trademark

Rio de Janeiro, Sep 24 (EFE).- Brazilian company IGB Eletrônica has lost exclusive rights to the iPhone trademark in the South American nation, despite having registered it before U.S. tech giant Apple, authorities said.

A ruling last Thursday by the Federal Court of Rio de Janeiro, published Tuesday on its Web site, prohibits IGB from using the iPhone name in isolation.

Instead, the name always must be accompanied by its registered Gradiente brand name.

The decision enables Apple to continue marketing iPhones in Brazil, while IBG may sell its Gradiente iphone products, which were launched late last year and use the Google Android operating system.

Judge Eduardo Andre Brandão de Brito Fernandes said in explaining his ruling that Apple's iPhone was a "globally recognized" trademark.

IGB, formerly known as Gradiente, filed its request to use the "iphone" brand name in Brazil in 2000, seven years before Apple did so upon launching its smartphone.

Brazil's INPI trademark and patent office granted IGB's application in 2008, although the company did not begin selling its "iphone" line of smartphones until last December.

The judge said IGB "did not act in bad faith" even though "a long period" of time had elapsed between the registration of the trademark and the launch of the company's first smartphone.

In a ruling in February, the INPI rejected Apple's petition to register the iPhone name for its emblematic handset.

That decision, however, allowed Apple to use that trademark for products other than smartphones, an INPI spokesperson told Efe then.