Apple loses another trademark fight in mainland China

Xintong Tiandi wins right to use IPHONE mark on wallets and purses

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 04 May, 2016, 9:03pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 04 May, 2016, 9:03pm

Apple remains in a pitched battle inside China’s complex legal system over trademark disputes, years after the technology giant went through a long and acrimonious battle over the iPad name on the mainland.

Sources said Apple’s recent legal setback over the exclusive use of the iPhone trademark on the mainland was one of a series of disputes it had with the same company, Xintong Tiandi Technology (Beijing).

The Beijing Municipal Higher People’s Court ruled on March 31 against Apple’s appeal in a trademark case involving use of the “IPHONE” mark, according to a report in the state-owned Legal Daily.

“This ruling relates to only one category of trademark: imitation leather, leather, wallets, purses, leather thread, leather passport wallets, leather key cases, leather straps and leather trimmings for furniture,” one source said.

The court granted Xintong Tiandi use of the Apple trademark for that category of products, which it had first applied for on September 2007.

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Apple applied for the iPhone trademark in China in October 2002, but it was not approved until 2013. That trademark covered so-called Class 9 electrical and scientific apparatus.

Another source said Apple had previously “succeeded in opposing and cancelling other marks, including ‘IPHONE’, ‘iphone shop’ and ‘ipad’ marks, sought by this company [Xintong Tiandi] in other trademark categories”.

Apple in Beijing had no comment. The iPhone is the company’s flagship product and the most popular device that it sells on the mainland, which is the world’s biggest smartphone market.

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Losing its exclusive use of the iPhone brand on the mainland may have evoked a sense of deja vu for Apple, which had to settle a lengthy dispute over the iPad name in 2012 with a US$60 million payout to Proview Technology (Shenzhen).

That iPad trademark settlement was substantially less than the initial US$2 billion claim made by the mainland company. Apple’s dispute against Proview began soon after the mainland company sold its global trademarks to the iPad name – including two registered on the mainland – for £35,000 in December 2009 to a British firm set up by Apple to acquire such brand rights.