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Apple acquitted in Mexican 'iFone' lawsuit, but local telecoms to be fined

The Mexican Institute of Industrial Property (IMPI) on Thursday announced it has absolved Apple of wrongdoing in a trademark lawsuit surrounding the iPhone's infringement of a local telecommunications company marketing the phonetically identical "iFone" brand.

In its decision, the IMPI found the "iPhone" mark as infringing on Mexico's iFone trademark, but only as it applies to telecommunications services, reports El Universal.

The Mexican IP authority is imposing a monetary fine on local cellular providers that carry the iPhone, including Telcel, Iusacell and Movistar, while the same companies have 15 days to remove "iPhone" branding from all advertising materials.

Apple seems to have come away from the dispute unscathed as iFone's case targeted telecommunications companies using the iPhone name as a branding asset. Since Apple does not operate its own wireless network — and iFone does not manufacture physical products — the tech giant was out of the suit's scope.

In March of 2013, Mexico's Supreme Court denied an Apple bid to overturn a prior ruling that found against the company's sole ownership of "iPhone" rights. Once again, the phonetic similarities between iPhone and iFone was a sticking point.

With the ruling in hand, iFone can prepare civil suits to recover damages associated with the telcos' use of the iPhone mark, if any exist. A prior report noted that the Mexican brand may be able to squeeze out up to 40 percent of profits obtained by selling the iPhone under Mexican law.

Alternatively, the Mexican iPhone carriers can appeal the IMPI ruling to the Federal Court of Fiscal and Administrative Justice.