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Brazilian tech firm launches ‘iphone’, Apple lawyers brush up their Portuguese

No doubt Apple lawyers are already brushing up their Portuguese with news this week that Brazilian electronics company IGB Electronica has just launched a new line of iphone devices – powered by Android.

The first of the new handsets is called the Neo One, which comes with a 3.7-inch screen sporting a rather awful sounding 320 x 480 resolution, a 5-megapixel rear-facing camera, Wi-Fi and 2GB of storage. Running Android 2.3.4, the iphone Neo One will set you back 599 Brazilian real, equivalent to about $286.

Lawyers for the Cupertino company will likely be taking a close look at IGB Electronica and its claim over the iphone name.

In a Google-translated statement obtained by VentureBeat, the company – formerly known as Gradiente Electronica – said it registered the iphone name in 2008, and has the right to use it until 2018:

In 2000, Gradiente envisaged that there would be a technological revolution in the world of mobile phones, with the convergence of the transmission and reception of voice and data via the mobile Internet. That same year, the company filed IPHONE trademark registration INPI (National Institute of Industrial Property). On 2 January 2008, the company had its registration granted by the federal agency and now holds the exclusive rights to produce and market the brand up to 2018.

Interesting that the company, based in the northern Brazilian city of Manaus, managed to obtain the rights to the name a year after the iPhone – Apple’s iPhone, that is – hit the market.

With Brazil’s emerging economy and potentially huge market bringing the country into Apple’s cross hairs – it’s set to open stores in the country and already has plants manufacturing its products there – it’s more than likely Apple lawyers will already be booking their Brazil-bound plane tickets in a bid to reach some kind of settlement with the firm. Or take the matter to court.

Provided IGB can mount a robust defense of its right to the iphone name in Brazil, negotiations with Apple could well lead to a handsome payout for the South American company – as happened with Chinese firm Proview earlier this year.

After a long trademark dispute over the right to use the ‘iPad’ name in China, the American tech giant ended up buying the rights to use the name from Proview for $60 million. Now let’s see where the story goes with IGB.

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