iPhone: does Cisco miss out due to prior art?

Apple's argument that Cisco's claim to the name iPhone is "silly" is about to get a whole lot more cogent. Although they hold the trademark, it's still seemingly debatable whether Cisco has rights to the name. Eagle-eyed reader mrsalty points out the fact that Cisco's patent filings for the "Internet telephone" (and at least two others) reference the iphone name and attribute it to the Cidco (a company now owned by Earthlink); the fact that the filing reads with the following language is even less encouraging. "Also known [to Cisco at the time of filing the patent] is a dedicated 'Web phone,' such as the iphone, manufactured by Cidco..." Yikes. It's difficult to tell whether this iphone predates Cisco's acquisition of the patent holdings originally filed by Infogear in 1997, but prior art is prior art, and they admitted as much right in their own patent filing. What's more, the The Internet Phone Company has owned and operated since 1995, and we don't see Cisco suing them, either. So basically we really hope this whole thing will be quick and painless since we don't think anyone really wants another RIM vs NTP saga on their hands. Things will get very interesting, however, if it works out such that the iPhone name is released to the commons and everyone and their mother can make an iPhone. (Sony Ericsson aiPhone or Motorola IFON, anyone?) Our advice to the people Behind the Human Network: focus on that human network of yours and let the iPhone go, kid.

Update: As some readers have pointed out, yes, a trademark is different from a patent. Our intention is to address Cisco's irregular legal activity that favors other companies using the name iphone, but not Apple. Does Cisco hold the trademark? Yes, it would appear that way. Will Cisco's lack of protection of this trademark hold up in court? We'll have to wait and see, but something tells us Stevie J. wouldn't have gotten up on stage with "iPhone" if he wasn't damned sure they'd be able to use and keep this name.