Interoperability key in 'iPhone' talks

The Cisco-Apple iSaga took a conciliatory turn today as the companies returned to the negotiation table to hash out an agreement over the coveted iPhone moniker.

In a tersely worded joint statement, the companies stated "Apple and Cisco have agreed to extend the time for Apple to respond to the lawsuit to allow for discussions between the companies with the aim of reaching agreement on trademark rights and interoperability." (The emphasis is mine; more on that in a moment.)

As you may recall, the captain of the iPod Mothership (i.e. Steve Jobs) announced plans [Video] at MacWorld to beam down an iPod cellular phone called the iPhone.

Shortly after, Cisco cried foul and filed a lawsuit against Apple for copyright infringement, arguing that it has held the trademark for the name iPhone since 2000. The company released VOIP phones with that name through its Linksys brand last year.

Cisco argues that Apple was well aware that it owned the iPhone name and noted that prior to Apple announcing its own iPhone, it had approached Cisco on several occasions to discuss usage of the moniker.

In the lawsuit, Cisco asked for Apple to cover its legal fees and to surrender all profits eventually made from iPhone sales. The lawsuit also demanded that Apple eradicate all promotional materials associated with the iPhone.

However, since filing the lawsuit, Cisco CEO John Chambers has said the company is not looking for money; rather, it seeks "interoperability, or the ability of the Apple phone to work smoothly with Cisco product," according to

Interoperability, of course, is the operative word here; you may recall, it was part of Cisco and Apple's carefully worded press release. While all the hype about the iPhone has drawn attention to Cisco's Linksys-branded version (a product I'd wager few people had been aware of prior to the skirmish with Apple), the promise of having compatibility with Apple's oh-so-juicy end-user iBlank line is potentially more lucrative to Cisco than simply having Apple's iPhone disappear (or be renamed) all together.

Specifically, as noted by Stephen Lawson of the IDG News Service:

According to published reports, Cisco would have been willing to license the iPhone name in exchange for Apple making the handset interoperate smoothly with Cisco's products. Linksys is the biggest seller of consumer Wi-Fi access points and is expanding its home product line into the voice and entertainment realms. Apple's iPhone is equipped with Wi-Fi and includes audio, photo, and video player software.