Brazilian Company Hires Former President to Secure iPhone Trademark Exclusivity

The old legal dispute over the rights to the “iPhone” trademark in Brazil has been dragging on for over a decade. And now, it gains another chapter that promises to shake up the behind-the-scenes of the dispute.

The IGB Eletrônica, the owner of the Gradiente brand, has added a new legal representative to its team in the litigation against Apple regarding the use of the iPhone trademark in Brazil.

Former President Michel Temer, who has been acting as a lawyer in some cases in the Supreme Federal Court (STF) since the end of his term in 2018, is now advocating for the interests of the Brazilian company.

The STF hearing, which resumed in the virtual plenary last Friday, currently stands at a score of 3 votes to 2 in favor of Apple. Temer was included as part of Gradiente’s legal team on Saturday, October 14.

The core of the legal dispute is Gradiente’s desire to obtain exclusive use of the iPhone brand in the Brazilian market.

Due to previous court decisions, the company currently holds the rights only to the expression “Gradiente Iphone“, which is registered with the National Institute of Industrial Property (INPI).

The impasse began in 2013 when Apple sought to partially invalidate the trademark registration, aiming to prevent the isolated use of the word “iPhone” in Brazil.

Divided STF

The opinions of STF ministers are divided on the matter.

Some, including Alexandre de Moraes, Luiz Fux, and Luís Roberto Barroso, argue that the term “iPhone” is globally associated with Apple, and granting exclusivity to Gradiente could harm free competition and enterprise.

On the other hand, ministers like Dias Toffoli, the case’s rapporteur, and Gilmar Mendes argue that Gradiente should have full rights to the brand since they were the first to register it with INPI.

Recalling the Saga

Gradiente was the first to register the “gradiente iphone” brand in Brazil in 2000. However, the patent was only granted in 2008 when Apple’s iPhone 3G was already being sold in the country.

In 2013, the deadline for Gradiente to launch a product with the brand expired, and they risked losing the patent if they didn’t. For this reason, they announced a new “Gradiente iphone” device at the end of 2012, which was, in reality, just a renamed old model.

The following year, they announced a second device, this time with the name “iphone.” However, the quality was poor, and those who bought it faced numerous issues. A mediocre product, not aimed at consumers but at the courts.

The Weight of Temer

Michel Temer is known, above all, for his strong ties to the corridors of power.

It is clear that he was hired not for his brilliant legal skills but as an attempt to influence outcomes and opinions, both in Congress and even in the Judiciary.

So, in the end, perhaps the arguments on both sides are not as important anymore. What may decide this clash is the power of influence.

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