Cisco's lawsuit against Apple over use of the iPhone trademark may not go Cisco's way.

One European legal expert believes Apple could win the trademark in Europe, and that Cisco's control of the trademark isn't universal. The company holds the mark in Europe and the US, but its grip seems more tenuous than first reported.

Cisco acquired the name in 2000 when it acquired Infogear, which had held the name since 1996.

A report on quotes trademark lawyer Lee Curtis of Pinsent Masons. The legal beagle claims to have found a loophole in the law which threaten's Cisco's European control of the iPhone brand.

Essentially, Cisco hadn't actively used the mark in Europe for five years until December 18, when it launched its own iPhone VoIP product. The launch happened the very same day as German law firm, CMS, filed papers to strip Cisco of its rights to the mark, as it had not exploited it for five years. says it: "Can find no use in Europe of the iPhone trade mark in the five years preceding that revocation application, which means Cisco's ownership of the trade mark is under threat in Europe," the report explains.

Apple also has an application for use of the mark – so ownership of that mark would be granted to Apple if Cisco's hold on the mark were broken under trademark law. And this seems possible because European law ignores any use made of a mark in the three months preceeding the filing of papers to force a company to let go of it. This is to prevent companies hanging onto trademarks they don't really plan to use.

However, three European companies have filed papers of protest at Apple's claim for the iPhone name, though details of these objections have not been published.

In related news, Apple is reportedly recruiting 33 software and hardware engineers to join its iPhone project team.