Apple Inc. Lost Exclusive Rights To ‘iPhone’ Name In China

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Apple had long been in a long court battle with Beijing’s Xintong Tiandi Technology, which sells leather products like cell phone cases, handbags and others under the brand name “IPHONE.” Now according to Quartz, Silicon Valley’s star child has lost the trademark suit against the Chinese company.

Apple loses an important trademark

The trademark dispute between the local Chinese company and the smartphone making giant started in 2012 when the latter fought to gain exclusive rights to the iPhone brand name. A lower Beijing court and China’s trademark authority dismissed all of the iPhone maker’s claims, the report says. Local media outlet Legal Daily reported that Apple appealed the ruling, but the Beijing Municipal High People’s Court rejected the appeal on March 31, allowing Xintong Tiandi to continue selling its IPHONE products.

Apple applied for the trademark “IPHONE” in 2002, but it was not approved under Class 9: Electrical and Scientific Apparatus until 2013. In 2007, Xintong Tiandi applied for the same trademark around the same time the U.S. firm was releasing its first iPhone in the U.S. The trademark “IPHONE” was then approved under Class 18: Leather goods in 2010.

Chinese authorities argued that Apple’s iPhone was not even popular in the region when Xintong Tiandi submitted its application, thus, they refused to revoke Xintong Tiandi’s trademark. The Silicon Valley firm could not prove that the “IPHONE” brand had high visibility because the iPhone didn’t arrive in the Chinese mainland market until 2009.

Such treatment not new for U.S. firms

This is not the first time a U.S. firm has to struggle for its rights in China. In 2015, Michael Jordan lost the fight against an alleged trademark violation by a company which used his last name’s Chinese translation, his jersey number and Nike Air’s iconic “Jumpman” logo on its products. More recently, Under Armour threatened to sue Uncle Martian, a new Chinese sports company, for allegedly copying its logo. In 2012, Apple ended up paying $60 million over the iPad name to a Shenzhen tech company.

A statement on Xintong Tiandi’s website shows that it’s pleased with the court’s decision, and it expressed a desire to work with Apple to develop the iPhone brand.

Quartz translated the Chinese firm’s comments: “We will also make full achievement of the ‘iphone’ trademark, and work together [with Apple] to benefit more iPhone consumers.”

As of now, there have been no comments from Apple about the court’s decision.

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