How Steve Jobs Steamrolled Cisco On The Name “iPhone”



Steve Jobs unveiled the iPhone at Macworld on January 9, 2007 to thunderous applause. The revolutionary phone — a product that has now made Apple the top smartphone manufacturer in the world — then went on sale June 29, 2007 to long lines of eager customers and fanboys.

Several years later, Jobs announced that the iPhone’s software would be called “iOS.” These two names, iPhone and iOS, have not only become a part of Apple’s core, but also staple, household names worldwide. Most people don’t know, however, the story of how Steve Jobs took both names from a enterprise/infrastructure company by the name of Cisco. Took? Well, steamrolled, really.

Although Apple did invent the ‘i’ nomenclature with products like the iMac and iPod, Cisco owned the trademarks for both “iPhone and “IOS” many years before Apple. The Silicon Valley-based company has never been in the same market as Apple; Cisco has always focused on networking and enterprise while Apple has targeted the average consumer. Although Cisco has branched out into the consumer space with some of the most popular home routers and networking utilities around, the two companies are still by no means competing for the same thing.

When Apple decided that it wanted to name its handset the “iPhone,” it didn’t bother to consider that Cisco owned the trademark. Adam Lashinsky explains how Steve Jobs walked all over Charles Giancarlo, a Cisco executive at the time, in his book Inside Apple:

Giancarlo fielded a call directly from Steve Jobs. “Steve called in and said that he wanted it,” Giancarlo recalled. “He didn’t offer us anything for it. It was just like a promise he’d be our best friend. And we said, ‘No, we’re planning on using it.’ ” Shortly after that, Apple’s legal department called to say they thought Cisco had “abandoned the brand,” meaning that in Apple’s legal opinion Cisco hadn’t adequately defended its intellectual property rights by promoting the name. To Apple’s way of thinking this meant the name iPhone was available for Apple’s use. Giancarlo, who subsequently joined the prominent Silicon Valley private-equity firm Silver Lake Partners, said Cisco threatened litigation before the launch. Then, the day after Apple announced its iPhone, Cisco filed suit.

The negotiation displayed some classic Steve Jobs negotiating tactics. Giancarlo said Jobs called him at home at dinnertime on Valentine’s Day, as the two sides were haggling. Jobs talked for a while, Giancarlo related. “And then he said to me, ‘Can you get email at home?’ ” Giancarlo was taken aback. This was 2007, after all, when broadband Internet was ubiquitous in homes in the US, let alone that of a Silicon Valley executive who had worked for years on advanced Internet technology. “And he’s asking me if I’m able to get email at home. You know he’s just trying to press my buttons—in the nicest possible way.” Cisco gave up the fight shortly after that. The two sides reached a vague agreement to cooperate on areas of mutual interest.

Cisco had referred to its core equipment operating system as “IOS” (Internet Operating System) before Apple and Steve Jobs decided that the iPhone’s software would be given the nearly-identical “iOS” label in 2010. The second time around, Apple actually acquired the trademark before going public. Jobs got his way throughout the whole process negotiation process. Classic Apple. Classic Steve.

  • AustinNewdick

    like a boss

  • stevearm

    I love how this site wanks over everything SJ did or Apple does. It’s hilarious and pathetic in equal measure.

  • Frank Lowney

    I sense a lot of important missing details here.

  • Jose

    This should be called cult of Steve or cult of Apple. I remember this story back in those days when it happened. /i think this guy should have add far more interesting points here. This is not complete at all. But that written from fanboy it’s not a surprise

  • recyclops117

    Why are you on this site then? Your just as annoying to apple fans as apple fans are to fandroids.

  • stevearm

    I’m an Apple fan, I have an iPad, iPhone, MBP, Cinema display etc. My point was, the fanboyish nature of this website really is quite sad at times.

  • prof_peabody

    hate to be picky but this story doesn’t deliver on the headline at all.  you promise to say how Steve Jobs “steamrolled” Cisco and go them to agree to give up the name and then it comes down to “later on they caved in”  WTF?  That explains exactly nothing at all.  

  • iDaBoss

    he steamrolled them with his powerful personality

  • iDaBoss


  • Len Williams

    So having a forceful personality and negotiating is now regarded as “steamrolling”? This is a decidedly negative spin on something that happens all the time in the business world. It’s called negotiation and communication. Give us some news and report what happened, not your opinions or conjectures about the situation.

  • SkolVikes88

    So, Cisco is run by a pu$$y, and Jobs makes his **** shrink further, then takes the names.  Cisco sues, they reach an “agreement”.
    Oh boy, here comes all the anti-Apple press.  You knew it was coming after Steve died and the company continued to break sales records.  Whatever.  If you ain’t got the balls to play, go home.


    You just got Steverolled! XD

  • CharliK

    Yeah. Like the fact that Cisco filed suit and Apple proved in court that they in fact didn’t have a product using the trademark for since buying it like 4 years before and suddenly announced one after Apple contacted them. The judge declared that Cisco hadn’t been using the trademark and the announcement wasn’t enough and Apple could use the trademark as could Cisco for said product but if they ever stopped making that phone they were done with the ‘mark. 

  • Bespriyutnaya Dusha


  • UltraFan305

    You call this journalism??? WTF is this hackery??? I am embarrassed for your mother.

  • Al

    I think the question, Do you get email at home, is perfectly reasonable. Some executives may choose to not get _work_ email at home. Otherwise work intrudes on personal life.

    At my company I never get work email at home for this very reason. If something urgently comes up at work, my boss will phone or text me. Otherwise I’d end up stressing over work stuff when I should be spending time with the family.

    Perhaps Mr Jobs thought the same may apply to Mr Giancarlo. Otherwise he’d just be assuming he would get his email.

    Please note I am not normally an apologist for Mr Jobs!

  • TrifleTrifle

    Thanks. The only really useful information here :)

  • John Neumann

    Steve wanted to know if Giancarlo could read his email at home so he could send him some lol-kittez. 

  • tazh89

    this site couldnt be riding on apples and steve **** any harder

  • mkhoury

    why is this even a story? it doesn’t even answer the title’s claim of “how” he did it!