Apple has proved to be a marketing genius of a company over the years, but they have also made some rather silly and sometimes juvenile mistakes, like taunting The Beatles into litigation by naming their music software with a name that sounds like “Sue Me.”

This week they may have made another juvenile mistake with the launch of their iPhone.  It appears that they failed at least to get all of their ducks in a row.  According to reports from Cisco, Apple and Cisco had been in talks concerning Apple’s use of the iPhone trademark owned by Cisco, who recently released a VOIP phone with the same name.

It would appear that the parties were close to a deal.  However, close is not typically considered good enough for most corporate lawyers and so when Apple rushed to launch their iPhone at MacWorld without first signing a release from Cisco, Cisco seemed to have little if any other choice than to sue Apple to protect their trademark or risk defaulting on it all together.

Apple responded with indications that they thought Cisco was being silly and that they were the first to offer a cellular phone with the name of iPhone as opposed to the wireless phone that Cisco had offered with the same name.

Let’s hope that Bill Clinton doesn’t represent one of these companies in a battle over the definition of what “is wireless” and what “is cellular.”  The technologies are obviously distinct, but this would raise other questions of products that are similar, like a sandwich shop that offered a Whopper of a Submarine sandwich.  Could they argue that a submarine sandwich named the whopper is nothing like a Burger King Whopper that is a grilled cheese burger?  What if the whopper comes with Lettuce?

Regardless Apple seems to have embroiled if not invited itself into litigation that is frittering away shareholder value.  As such it would seem that they may have been in a rush to launch this product and may have phoned in the iPhone like they phoned in the iRokr.

Maybe Apple just isn’t ready to play in the phone market?