Apple loses dispute over ”iPhone” in China
The Beijing Municipal High People’s Court has recently ruled in favor of a Chinese company in a trademark dispute over the name “iPhone”.
Apple filed for a trademark registration of the name “iPhone” for electronic goods in China in 2002, but the registration wasn’t granted until 2013. In the meantime, the Chinese company Xington Tiandi Technology started selling phone cases and leather bags branded with the name “iPhone” – and in 2010, they trademarked the “iPhone”-name for leather goods.
Apple filed a lawsuit against the Chinese company in 2012, claiming their trademark registration was an infringement of Apple’s rights to the “iPhone”-name, as the Apple iPhone was already a world-known product. When that failed, they filed another lawsuit before a Beijing court – but both courts ruled against Apple, who were then forced to appeal the decision to the highest court in order to protect their brand.
To win the case, Apple had to prove that “iPhone” was a well-known brand in China before Xington Tiandi Technology filed their trademark application in 2007. Only then would Apple be able to oppose the registration and use of the “iPhone”-brand for non-electronic goods, as their Chinese registration only covered electronics – not leather goods.
Given the popularity of Apple – and especially the iPhone – this would seem to be a fairly simple task, but the High Court of Beijing ruled against Apple, stating that Apple had not proven their status as a well-known brand in 2007, where the Chinese application was filed. Even though the iPhone was the talk of the town in most of the world, the first sale of the smartphone in China was not until 2009 – 2 years after the trademark application for “iPhone” for leather goods was filed.
This means, that Apple is unable to oppose the sale of leather bags and phone cases under the “iPhone” brand, and that a Chinese company now has the right to prohibit Apple from selling similar goods under the “iPhone” name.
Apple has stated that they intend to request a retrial before the Supreme People’s Court.
By Mia Storm