or Connect
AppleInsider › Forums › Mobile › iPhone › Apple may face iPhone trademark issue in Japan
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

Apple may face iPhone trademark issue in Japan

post #1 of 23
Thread Starter 
Japan's largest intercom maker, Aiphone Co., is said to have approached Apple to discuss the possibility that the iPhone violate its ''Aiphone'' trademark.

Kyodo World Service reports that Aiphone, which is listed on the First Section of the Tokyo Stock Exchange, claims that Apple's audio-centric iPhone handset may infringe on its long-standing trademark.

The Nagoya-based company is said to own the rights to use ''Aiphone'' in Japan and some 70 foreign countries as the trademark for its intercom products.

Representatives from both Aiphone and Apple reportedly declined to comment on the matter, but did not deny that the two companies were in talks with each other.

Back in January, Apple faced similar opposition over its use of the iPhone mark from network giant Cisco, which subsequently filed a trademark infringement suit in federal court.

Apple and Cisco eventually reached an out-of-court settlement that allowed both companies to use the iPhone trademark on their products throughout the world.
post #2 of 23
Yeah, Airphone really doesn't sounds like iPhone! in English but in Japanese ...? Ah So! Aiiii! You have to give the points for trying lol
From Apple ][ - to new Mac Pro I've used them all.
Long on AAPL so biased
"Google doesn't sell you anything, they just sell you!"
Reply
From Apple ][ - to new Mac Pro I've used them all.
Long on AAPL so biased
"Google doesn't sell you anything, they just sell you!"
Reply
post #3 of 23
Dealing with a phonetically identical name is not Apple's biggest hurdle in Japan by a longshot. Nobody cares about the company 'aiphone' in Japan anyway.

Apple's biggest issue in Japan is dealing the monopolistic monoliths that run Japan's 3 major (OK 2 major, and one pretender) mobile service providers. They won't let Apple get anything near the cut they have in the US without jacking up the price to ridiculous levels. A good example of this is how the Japan iTunes store took years to negotiate and get running, and how its prices are nearly double that of other iTunes stores.

The second issue is that Apple will actually have to put a modern radio in its phones. Nobody here in Japan uses archaic technology like GSM anymore - it's all CDMA and faster protocols. OK, you can use the inexpensive PHS phone network, but that service has lots of problems away from the big cities and isn't particularly fast.

My bet is that it will take 3 years for the iPhone to show up here, if at all. And by then, we'll have plenty of iPhone knockoffs that will do the job for most people.
post #4 of 23
'aiphone'.. is that Ali-G?
Citing unnamed sources with limited but direct knowledge of the rumoured device - Comedy Insider (Feb 2014)
Reply
Citing unnamed sources with limited but direct knowledge of the rumoured device - Comedy Insider (Feb 2014)
Reply
post #5 of 23
If phonetic trademarks were an issue, Mars, Inc. would have sued Marshall Mathers a long time ago for his use of the name Eminem.
post #6 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by umijin View Post

Dealing with a phonetically identical name is not Apple's biggest hurdle in Japan by a longshot. Nobody cares about the company 'aiphone' in Japan anyway.

Apple's biggest issue in Japan is dealing the monopolistic monoliths that run Japan's 3 major (OK 2 major, and one pretender) mobile service providers. They won't let Apple get anything near the cut they have in the US without jacking up the price to ridiculous levels. A good example of this is how the Japan iTunes store took years negotiate and get running, and how its prices are nearly double that of other iTunes stores.

The second issue is that Apple will actually have to put a modern radio in its phones. Nobody here in Japan uses archaic technology like GSM anymore - it's all CDMA and faster protocols. OK, you can use the inexpensive PSH phone network, but that service has lots of problems away from the big cities and isn't particularly fast.

My bet is that it will take 3 years for the iPhone to show up here, if at all. And by then, we'll have plenty of iPhone knockoffs that will do the job for most people.

I assume you're referring to SoftBank as the pretender company. I would have thought they'd be the most likely partner for Apple in Japan because they're on a drive for growth, they're the most Western-friendly company and well, so far they seem to be thinking, er....different: the Y1000 White Plan has generated the highest sign-up rate of all the carriers recently AND they've got the tie-in with Yahoo regarding email etc on the phone - just like Apple. Even their stores, all white and bright, seem like a complement to Apple's retail look.

I think Jobs said next year for 'Asia' anyway, so that gives them enough time to build a 3G handset - this is surely inevitable anyway sooner rather than later, unlikely to be 3 years.

And I'm sure that while the knockoffs will precede the iPhone here, when it DOES become available, you'll read all about it and they'll be very visible. I think Apple has a pretty high presence in Japan - for a foreign company. I remember a few years ago when the iPod minis debuted, there were a number of Subway stations here in Osaka decked out in Apple Ads, as well as some of the trains. hell, they've even got their own Mac/PC guy TV ads: http://www.apple.com/jp/getamac/
post #7 of 23
Homonym = infringement?

Quick, someone locate the inventor of the EyePhone and let him know!
Journalism is publishing what someone doesn't want us to know; the rest is propaganda.
-Horacio Verbitsky (el perro), journalist (b. 1942)
Reply
Journalism is publishing what someone doesn't want us to know; the rest is propaganda.
-Horacio Verbitsky (el perro), journalist (b. 1942)
Reply
post #8 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by reachingforsky View Post

If phonetic trademarks were an issue, Mars, Inc. would have sued Marshall Mathers a long time ago for his use of the name Eminem.

Actually Homophone tradmarks are challenged quote often. IMNAL, but I believe the general test for them is to show that the trademarks are substantially in the same realm of usage ( i.e. business ), and that damages would occur to the business if the trademarks were to be confused by the consumer.

For instance, it's ok for your Shoe company to come out with a shoe line called "Flash", even if Intel or some other chip manufacturer had trademarked "Flash". If, however, Intel came out with a Chip called "Hexium" and AMD cam out with a chip and called it "X-E-M", Intel would likely win that case because X-E-M could cause consumer confusion by sounding similar to "Hexium" and they are directly competing against each other.
That is a case where the infringment is clear.

This company is arguing that since they are in "kind of" the same business... they have two way radio devices, intercoms, etc, they will suffer damage. They deal in voice. Kind of weak if you ask me, but I can see how they would legitmately fear losing business simply on the popularity of "iPhone". They are worried that their name will get pushed into obsurity simply because of the exposure iPhone will get.

Think about it this way: Say you are a very successful company in your own right, but your products are not sold to the consumer directly. Your products are well known in the industry, but outside of that, your name is stuggling for recognition. You are trying to expand your business and get your name out there and along comes a big company that makes a product that *IS* directed at the consumer and is a sensational success. From now on, no one will ever remember your comapny. The public might even start to think that you may have taken your name to capitalize on the success of the big product.
See what I mean?

Also as others have brought up here, there may be even more significant overlap if the two sound the same in Japanese, which is quite likely noting their somewhat constricted vowel sounds and absense of dipthongs. [ I am also not a linguist. ]

Just some thoughts... they could also just be in it for the money
post #9 of 23
hasnt apple tradmarked the phrase iphone since like 1995 or somthing or do i just have a bad memory.



Also, if apple really cared, couldnt they sue every company that ever used the phrase iAnything

Its crazy how many companies use things like iPlayer, iHome, iCaught and 100s of other stupid names like that.
post #10 of 23
Aiphone predates iPhone by a long time.

While "aiphone" sounds just like "iphone" in Japanese (and English), the issue may depend upon whether or not "Aiphone" is registered in the Roman alphabet in Japan. I assume it is since the company uses that mark on its products in Japan, as opposed to presenting it written with a Japanese alphabet.

An interesting similar case occured in the 70's (?) when Playboy and a Japanese magazine "Pureiboi" fought over the Playboy trademark. Pureiboi was written in katakana, a Japanese phonetic alphabet, and the courts in Japan found it was significantly different from "Playboy" and not a copyright infringement, though when pronounced in Japanese "Playboy" and "Pureiboi" are identical.
post #11 of 23
It is just another poor attempt at publicity or easy money from some pathetic non-innovative company. There are those of us that work hard to make money, and others who sue those who work hard to make money.
post #12 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by mrpiddly View Post

hasnt apple tradmarked the phrase iphone since like 1995 or somthing or do i just have a bad memory.

'95 predates any Apple i product. iMac is 1998.
post #13 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by digitalclips View Post

Yeah, Airphone really doesn't sounds like iPhone! in English but in Japanese ...? Ah So! Aiiii! You have to give the points for trying lol

No "r". Ai phone. Ai could mean a few different things depending on what character is used or its context, it is most recognizable as one of the ways to say love.
post #14 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by JustBrady View Post

It is just another poor attempt at publicity or easy money from some pathetic non-innovative company. There are those of us that work hard to make money, and others who sue those who work hard to make money.

So Japan's largest intercom maker is a pathetic, non-innovative company?

If anything, it's Apple who needs the good publicity in Japan, because they sure as hell aren't doing all that well there and many of Apple's offerings are non-innovative compared to Japanese alternatives.
post #15 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by digitalclips View Post

Yeah, Airphone really doesn't sounds like iPhone! in English but in Japanese ...? Ah So! Aiiii! You have to give the points for trying lol

I don't know a lot Japanese, although I do know Chinese and I'm pretty sure in this case the Japanese and Chinese is the same. Aiphone would be pronounced the same way you pronounce iPhone. Somebody else pointed out that it could mean love, the character 愛 (you may have to go to Safari -> View -> Text Encoding, and select Traditional Chinese (Big 5) to see the character) means love and is pronounced the same as 'I'; however, it doesn't seem to be the case.

It does look though like the products that Aiphone produces are very different from the iPhone, so I doubt it will be too difficult to negotiate an agreement so that Apple can use the name in Japan and other asian countries that Aiphone has trademarks registered.

Here's the Aiphone web site in English: http://www.aiphone.co.jp/english/abo...e/profile.html

Dak
post #16 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by JustBrady View Post

It is just another poor attempt at publicity or easy money from some pathetic non-innovative company. There are those of us that work hard to make money, and others who sue those who work hard to make money.

Don't be so bloody stupid!
post #17 of 23
No I live in Japan... Apple's biggest problem is that you can't use GSM phones in Japan!

None! Only 3G phones, even if you're travelling!
post #18 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by modz View Post

I assume you're referring to SoftBank as the pretender company. I would have thought they'd be the most likely partner for Apple in Japan because they're on a drive for growth, they're the most Western-friendly company and well, so far they seem to be thinking, er....different: the Y1000 White Plan has generated the highest sign-up rate of all the carriers recently AND they've got the tie-in with Yahoo regarding email etc on the phone - just like Apple. Even their stores, all white and bright, seem like a complement to Apple's retail look.

Softbank, formerly Vodafone Japan, formerly J-phone is certainly a laggard. They have been a step away from folding up the tent for years. They may have some style, but their substance is lacking. The only thing going for them is price. They had/have this big promo for signups and their system couldn't handle the influx - even crashed. And really - who give's a rat's behind about Yahoo mail. I don't think they are a good candidate, because they aren't regarded by most Japanese as reliable. Their signal coverage is awful - has been for years. That's what has kept them from being a major contender. Au is actually quite 'gaijin-friendly', though I agree they don't cater to us like Softbank has.

Quote:
Originally Posted by modz View Post

I think Jobs said next year for 'Asia' anyway, so that gives them enough time to build a 3G handset - this is surely inevitable anyway sooner rather than later, unlikely to be 3 years.

What Steve says, and what he can do are two different things. Japan's phone market is pretty much closed, and Apple will have to capitulate on something if it wants to have one of the big carriers as partners. When he means Asia, I bet he means outside Japan, because Apple hasn't been paying much attention to Japan's market these days.

Quote:
Originally Posted by modz View Post

And I'm sure that while the knockoffs will precede the iPhone here, when it DOES become available, you'll read all about it and they'll be very visible. I think Apple has a pretty high presence in Japan - for a foreign company. I remember a few years ago when the iPod minis debuted, there were a number of Subway stations here in Osaka decked out in Apple Ads, as well as some of the trains. hell, they've even got their own Mac/PC guy TV ads: http://www.apple.com/jp/getamac/

iPods are certainly succcessful here - but not as dominant as you would expect. More than 70% of the people I encounter on public transport are using something other than an iPod. And you are right that three years ago there were huge iPod ads everywhere. But now they are not as prevalent, and people are generally aware of the fact that iPods are lagging behind other media players available. Remember, they haven't been seriouly updated in nearly 3 years! The only thing going for iPods is the integration with iTunes.

Furthermore, nobody cares about Apple's Mac ads here, except Mac fan boys. Apple's Japan sales have been awful for the last two years or more. Why? No small laptops. Most people here commute on trains and walk. Five pound MacBricks don't cut it when Panasonic, Sony, Toshiba, and even ASUS produce notebooks that are less than 1.5 kg. I think you'll see a bump in sales for the new iMacs, but without a light notebook Apple's sales will remain stagnant. And Apple's image is not what it was a few years ago in Japan. They just aren't the latest cool thing right now. And in this is a very fickle culture for fads.
post #19 of 23
Japan's markets are completely incestuous. For outsider companies to break in there... is nearly impossible.

Proud AAPL stock owner.

 

GOA

Reply

Proud AAPL stock owner.

 

GOA

Reply
post #20 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by umijin View Post

Softbank, formerly Vodafone Japan, formerly J-phone is certainly a laggard. They have been a step away from folding up the tent for years. They may have some style, but their substance is lacking. The only thing going for them is price. They had/have this big promo for signups and their system couldn't handle the influx - even crashed. And really - who give's a rat's behind about Yahoo mail. I don't think they are a good candidate, because they aren't regarded by most Japanese as reliable. Their signal coverage is awful - has been for years. That's what has kept them from being a major contender. Au is actually quite 'gaijin-friendly', though I agree they don't cater to us like Softbank has.

Hmm..I guess most of what I see and hear in Japan is anecdotal - I have no access to facts and figures. But: my Vodafone unit hasn't had any signal coverage issues in the last couple years, and plenty of people in the US have complained of AT&T coverage but that didn't stop Apple partnering with them. And maybe YOU don't give a rats ass about Yahoo Mail but Apple clearly does don't they? The point is, it's built-in already to the iPhone AND to Softbank's structure.

Quote:
Originally Posted by umijin View Post

What Steve says, and what he can do are two different things. Japan's phone market is pretty much closed, and Apple will have to capitulate on something if it wants to have one of the big carriers as partners. When he means Asia, I bet he means outside Japan, because Apple hasn't been paying much attention to Japan's market these days.

Well that's the thing. Softbank are the one's most likely to capitulate TO Apple's conditions. They're the one gunning for growth. And experience shows that Apple DO care about Japan, that's why there's an iTunes store here and not anywhere else in Asia yet.

Quote:
Originally Posted by umijin View Post

iPods are certainly succcessful here - but not as dominant as you would expect. More than 70% of the people I encounter on public transport are using something other than an iPod. And you are right that three years ago there were huge iPod ads everywhere. But now they are not as prevalent, and people are generally aware of the fact that iPods are lagging behind other media players available. Remember, they haven't been seriouly updated in nearly 3 years! The only thing going for iPods is the integration with iTunes.

Well again this is just anecdotal isn't it? In my experience I would have put iPod usage at 50% minimum on the Kansai public transport scene. Can't speak for where you are. iPod ads aren't prevalent anywhere on the globe now, not just Japan - they don't need to - they're now the standard. And even if your math is right, in this particular market, for the iPod to carve out 30% on it's own is pretty good actually.

Quote:
Originally Posted by umijin View Post

Furthermore, nobody cares about Apple's Mac ads here, except Mac fan boys. Apple's Japan sales have been awful for the last two years or more. Why? No small laptops. Most people here commute on trains and walk. Five pound MacBricks don't cut it when Panasonic, Sony, Toshiba, and even ASUS produce notebooks that are less than 1.5 kg. I think you'll see a bump in sales for the new iMacs, but without a light notebook Apple's sales will remain stagnant. And Apple's image is not what it was a few years ago in Japan. They just aren't the latest cool thing right now. And in this is a very fickle culture for fads.

You got figures about those sales? You're right - there's no sub-notebook from Apple, but my understanding is that against the standard offerings from Sony, NEC, Fujitsu etc, the Macbook and Pro lines compete pretty well sales-wise. but until there are figures we're just talking hot air from opposite ends aren't we?

Whatever, I believe Softbank are the outfit most likely to offer the iPhone in Japan because they're the best corporate fit and I believe they'll do it next year because Softbank - structural issues or not - are in a hurry to grow.
post #21 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by modz View Post

Hmm..I guess most of what I see and hear in Japan is anecdotal - I have no access to facts and figures. But: my Vodafone unit hasn't had any signal coverage issues in the last couple years, and plenty of people in the US have complained of AT&T coverage but that didn't stop Apple partnering with them. And maybe YOU don't give a rats ass about Yahoo Mail but Apple clearly does don't they? The point is, it's built-in already to the iPhone AND to Softbank's structure.

SoftBank rescued the company from Vodafone who rescued the company from Jphone. They are still number three, despite the great campaign. Just look at their earnings and total customer base. I've been impressed with the handsets they offered, particularly in the last two years. But everywhere I've been, their signal coverage is mediocre. I hear about it all the time. But I've spent the bulk of my time in Kanto and Okinawa the last 6 years. I can't speak for Kansai. I'd say ask your Japanese friends what they think about Softbank's signal.

I never owned a cell phone in the US, but I'm told cell phone email there is fairly primitive or has been until recently. My US friends always complain about phone email or the lack of it. In Japan, keitai email is very advanced and accepted by its users. We don't need Yahoo mail, because our own phone mail systems work well enough.


Quote:
Originally Posted by modz View Post

Well that's the thing. Softbank are the one's most likely to capitulate TO Apple's conditions. They're the one gunning for growth. And experience shows that Apple DO care about Japan, that's why there's an iTunes store here and not anywhere else in Asia yet.

That's a good point, SoftBanks' financial position makes it more likely for them to accede to Apple's demands. But Apple want to choose a winner, and SoftBank may not fit that bill. And the Japanese government also has a fairly heavy hand in what goes on in the mobile phone industry. I wouldn't put it past them to favor the big guys because of political considerations - very typical in this country.

Apple cares about Japan? Hmmm - I hoped so but their sales are sliding here for the last couple of years and continue to do so. The reason we have an iTunes store here is that it may be the only place in Asia it would work. Nobody in China, Korea, Sinapore, Thailand is gonna pay $1 or ¥200 per song when they can get it for much, much cheaper. Call it black market, music piracy, or just different cultural sensibilties - they just aren't gonna go for that when there are cheaper alternatives. And much cheaper music players too.

Quote:
Originally Posted by modz View Post

Well again this is just anecdotal isn't it? In my experience I would have put iPod usage at 50% minimum on the Kansai public transport scene. Can't speak for where you are. iPod ads aren't prevalent anywhere on the globe now, not just Japan - they don't need to - they're now the standard. And even if your math is right, in this particular market, for the iPod to carve out 30% on it's own is pretty good actually.

Well, Kansai is Kansai - Kanto is Kanto and I certainly wouldn't bet my life on my subway counts of music player users. But we have a quarter of the countries population here, and generally the rest of the coutry follows what Kanto does in terms of trends. Funny thing I noticed was that iPods were a minority until about 1.5 - 2 years ago, then more than half the people I saw had them about a year back, now it seems to have backed off again. Apple's sales report says the same thing - that iPod sales aren't so great they were last year.

Quote:
Originally Posted by modz View Post

You got figures about those sales? You're right - there's no sub-notebook from Apple, but my understanding is that against the standard offerings from Sony, NEC, Fujitsu etc, the Macbook and Pro lines compete pretty well sales-wise. but until there are figures we're just talking hot air from opposite ends aren't we?

No hot air, dude. Go here: http://phx.corporate-ir.net/phoenix....357&p=irol-sec
Find the latest SEC quarterly report (3rd quarter, 2007), do a search for Japan, pay particular attention to pages 26 and 30. You can see previous years too.

Last quarter was the first in a while that sales were flat compared to a year ago. So far this year, Apple has lost 11% of its total sales compared to last year. This is from both iPod and Mac sales. And last year's (2006) sales for Macs (not iPods) were down from the year prior. Apple's report claims that MacBook sales increased a bit - a surprise to me - but their MacBook Pro, Desktop Mac, and iPod sales were lower. So that means that people don't want to spend money on high end Mac laptops here. That suggests to me that the consumer here feels there are better values out there in the Windoze PC world. And ask your Japanese friends who commute by train if they would prefer to carry a 2.4 kg MacBook Pro or a 1.4 kg Panasonic LifeBook around.

The sad thing about Apple's Japan sales is that everywhere else in the world Apple is gaining something like 20-33% in sales! Japan is the number 3 consumer market in the world by some estimates. Apple should do a better job of catering to consumer demands here.

Quote:
Originally Posted by modz View Post

Whatever, I believe Softbank are the outfit most likely to offer the iPhone in Japan because they're the best corporate fit and I believe they'll do it next year because Softbank - structural issues or not - are in a hurry to grow.

I think that Softbank wants to make some profit, and growth may be one of the paths to get there. Whether or not Apple thinks they are the best fit is another thing. I'll be happy to see the iPhone here in a year. But the pace at which businesses change the way they do things here, or accept newcomers is glacial. I'm sure you know that if you've been here a few years.
post #22 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by umijin View Post

The sad thing about Apple's Japan sales is that everywhere else in the world Apple is gaining something like 20-33% in sales! Japan is the number 3 consumer market in the world by some estimates. Apple should do a better job of catering to consumer demands here.

I think the difference is that Apple faces much tougher competition in the market segments where they seem to excel, even if the Japanese are heavy buyers in more expensive electronics. Japanese makers seem to have a lot of sleek, compact products, most of which never leaves their shores.
post #23 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by SpamSandwich View Post

Japan's markets are completely incestuous. For outsider companies to break in there... is nearly impossible.

Nearly impossible? Maybe if a company has Apple's attitude towards the country, yes.

Companies like Louis Vuitton get over half their sales from Japan. Starbucks and McDonalds are now ingrained in the Japanese public. Western movies, music and TV are big hits in Japan, with Japanese sales contributing significantly to worldwide grosses; oftentimes Japan is the second most popular region after the United States for these western films. Windows, like everywhere else, is the dominant OS.

Apple's shortcomings in Japan are no one but Apple's fault.
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
  Back to Forum: iPhone
AppleInsider › Forums › Mobile › iPhone › Apple may face iPhone trademark issue in Japan