In 2007, Steve Jobs was getting ready to launch Apple’s new venture.
A mobile phone.
But not just another mobile phone.
This one wouldn’t have a keypad, just a touch-screen.
It would be totally sleek, with just a single on-off button.
Absolutely everything else would appear on the screen.
Numbers, letters, pictures, emails, websites, photos, videos.
This phone was also a camera and an MP3 player.
It was also a mini-computer that you carried in your pocket.
Steve Jobs needed a name for it.
He’d already launched the revolutionary iMac, and iPod.
So the name for the next revolutionary addition to the Apple family seemed obvious, iPhone.
It wasn’t overblown and pretentious like all the other companies’ names, which was why it fitted with Apple.
iPhone was simple and understandable and human
Which was why iPhone had the potential to be huge.
It could define the market, it could become the generic.
There was just one problem.
Someone else owned the name.
Cisco had patented the name for their handheld device that let you access Skype, photos, and music, wirelessly from your computer.
This was a problem for Jobs.
He wanted the name, Apple deserved the name, it was unfair that someone else had it.
He asked his ad agency for alternatives names.
But the more names they came up with, the more obvious it was they weren’t as good as iPhone.
Jobs saw it as inevitable that Apple should have the name.
He had his lawyers contact Cisco’s lawyers.
Eventually the two sets of lawyers thrashed out an agreement that was a compromise.
It restricted Apple’s rights to the name.
Something Jobs wasn’t happy with, but at least it was legal.
At least the lawyers were satisfied.
The night before the launch, Jobs was due to sign the agreement.
But he didn’t sign it.
He just went and launched the iPhone as the iPhone.
Without signing anything.
He ignored both sets of lawyers.
He decided his device would be known as the iPhone, and everyone else would have to sort out the details.
Everyone at Cisco and Apple was shocked.
Cisco straight away sued Apple.
Apple’s lawyers started talks with Cisco’s lawyers.
Legal talks inevitably take a long time.
And Jobs knew, all the while these talks were going on, the iPhone was becoming a bigger and bigger brand.
The launch was a worldwide phenomenon.
The longer the talks took, the more the iPhone became embedded in everyone’s minds.
Every week the talks went on, the iPhone became the name for that type of phone.
Eventually it became obvious, even if Apple stopped using it, the world was now calling Apple’s phone the iPhone.
There wasn’t really any point in Cisco continuing the legal action.
In a face-saving move, Cisco agreed that they and Apple would each use the name for their own product.
Steve Jobs knew the tsunami he created would be irresistible.
He didn’t put reality on hold while he waited to see what the lawyers would say.
He let reality create its own momentum and roll right over the lawyers.
When we have a great idea we can look for reasons not to do it.
Or we can look for reasons to do it.
We can treat every problem as an impenetrable wall.
Or we can treat it as a speed bump.
Nowadays, nearly everyone in the world has heard of Apple’s iPhone.
Cisco’s iPhone doesn’t exist anymore.