Apple Does Not Have Exclusive Rights to IPHONE In China

Apple have proven to be a disruptive influence in the smartphone and mobile System-on-Chip markets. The first iPhone was not a commercial success but it did give Apple their first opportunity to announce that the new model was the best ever iPhone. Since then the Apple iPhone has gone from strength to strength largely reusing the same marketing term, although the last iPhone may have come a little unstuck as Apple's sales and revenue numbers are not as encouraging. But in one part of the world, if you say "iPhone" you might not get an Apple product.

In 2007, Xintong Tiandi registered the "IPHONE" trademark to make and sell leather products, about the same time the first iPhone smartphone was released but some five years after Apple registered the name for computer software and hardware. However, Apple's trademark wasn't approved until 2013, under Class 9: Electrical and Scientific Apparatus. Xintong Tiandi's trademark was approved in 2010 under Class 18: Leather Goods. Apple took the case to the Chinese trademark in 2012 and subsequently filed a lawsuit with a lower Chinese court. Both courts ruled against Apple because the Californian company couldn't prove that the iPhone was a recognisable name before 2007. A quotation from a source close to the court said: "the general public will not link the trademark in dispute with Apple to harm its [Apple's] interests." These two decisions have been backed up by the Beijing Municipal High People's Court, noting that the iPhone was first sold in Chine in 2009. That Apple quaintly make the first letter of "iPhone" in lower case is ignored by the court, as Xintong uses an uppercase "I" letter.

Following the court decision, Apple have remained quiet. Xintong Tiandi, however, said on its website that the decision shows the Chinese court's support of the "free market … We will also make full achievement of the 'iphone' trademark, and work together [with Apple] to benefit more iphone consumers!" Apple must be relishing the prospect of working with the Chinese manufacturer to help them build IPHONE cases for the iPhone device family! Apple appears to be struggling in China according to the sales figures for the first quarter 2016, which showed a fall of 11%. However, the business still earned $58 billion from the country - more than any other non-American country. It's still an important region for the company, even if the company is facing the same difficulties other Western brands have with Chinese companies copying logos and slogans to sell similar products.

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About the Author

David Steele

Senior Staff Writer
I grew up with 8-bit computers and moved into PDAs in my professional life, using a number of devices from early Windows CE clamshells and later. Today, my main devices are a Nexus 5X, a Sony Xperia Z Tablet and a coffee cup.
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