iVoice Ventures has faith in India’s intellectual property regime despite its lingering trademark battle against Apple, writes Venky Vaiyapuri
Around 2006, India radically amended its telecom rules on the import of mobile phones thus throwing open the sector to competition with established players such as Nokia, Samsung, LG, Motorola, Sony-Ericsson, and BlackBerry. iVoice embarked on the quest to create a cost-effective mobile phone with unparalleled premium features for the ordinary person. Following much deliberation on what to call our invention, we decided on “IndiaPhone”. Our intellectual property (IP) attorney rejected this choice as too naively simplistic, citing a few sections from the Trade Marks Act, 1999. Mulling over several ideas, we finally had our eureka moment and settled on the name “iFon” – “i” for India, and “Fon” for phone.
Exactly two years down the road, this mark would ignite fires, destroying not only our operational plans, but investor commitment, suppliers and cash flows.
In 2008, while we were in the midst of production following the success of our first mobile phone launch, we received the gazette publication for trademark grant purposes concerning our iFon mark. A defining moment came when an innocuous looking letter from the Trade Marks Registry (TMR) advised us that Apple was opposing our trademark because of phonetic similarity to its own “iPhone” mark.
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Venkateshwaran (Venky) Vaiyapuri is an entrepreneur and operations director of iVoice Ventures, India. He currently holds 17 US patents as first named inventor and has wide experience as an engineering executive in the outsourced hardware product development and manufacturing domain in Asia-Pacific. He can be reached at email@example.com. The author wishes to thank S Suresh Kumar, the managing partner of UniMarks Legal Solutions in Chennai, for his input on recent government and IP policy matters.