Apple loses “iPhone” trademark lawsuit in China
A Beijing court has ruled against Apple in a lawsuit over the use of the trademarked “iPhone” name and gave rights to a Chinese company to continue making leather products labeled as “IPHONE”. The Beijing Municipal High People’s Court ruled in favor of Xintong Tiandi Technology, a leather handbag, mobile phone cases and other leather goods manufacturer. Their products bear the name “IPHONE” along with the “R” registered trademark symbol.
Apple bought the case to the Chinese trademark authority in 2012 and after its failure, the company filed a lawsuit in a lower Beijing court. The court ruled against Apple, so it appealed to the higher court. On appeal, the Beijing Municipal High People’s Court ruled that Apple has failed to prove that the “iPhone” brand was “familiar to public and widely known” in China before the leather company registered it for commercial use.
The Chinese company had trademarked the “IPHONE” name in 2007 for the leather products category which includes leather phone cases, passport covers and handbags. The court, therefore ruled in its favor, stating that Xintong Tiandi has not violated the country’s trademark laws.
Though Apple holds the trademark for the “iPhone” name for electronic goods, computer software and hardware, the bid for the trademark was filed in 2002 but it was not approved until 2013. The Apple mobile phones first went on sale in China in 2009, which also lead to the court in ruling against the company in the trademark lawsuit.
This is not the first time for Apple losing a trademark lawsuit to a Chinese company in a Chinese court. In 2012, Apple was ordered by the court to pay $60 million to a tech firm from Shenzhen city in order to use the “iPad” name in China, marking this as the second time Apple got stung by a Chinese brand.
The disagreement between the Western countries and China has been a rather long one over intellectual property rights, as duplication and counterfeiting is quite widespread and thriving in China. It is also to be noted that the majority of the world’s electronics are produced in mass numbers, including Apple’s iPhone.
Mainland China is Apple’s biggest market after their home turf, The United States of America where it is the best selling mobile phone brand. This blow to the company came at a very crucial time for Apple, with sales dropping by 16 percent globally, the company is feeling the heat as the smartphone growth bubble has burst and sales are declining at a steady rate.
Apple had also previously suffered at the hands of China when its iBooks and iTunes services were shut down in the country after the government insisting that all content should be stored on Chinese servers. Speaking of trademarks, the “iPhone” name is still owned by Apple for electronics and Xintong Tiandi cannot manufacture smartphones labeled as “IPHONE”.