Apple will now have to share the “iPhone” trademark in China. A recent ruling gave permission to a Beijing company that brands its leather accessories with the same name to continue to do so without punishment.
The Beijing Municipal High People’s Court ruled in favor of Xintong Tiandi Technology, allowing it to continue stamping “IPHONE” on its leather smartphone cases, passport covers, handbags, and more.
The company first starting using the name in 2010 — three years after Apple announced its insanely popular smartphone — but the higher court said that Apple could not prove iPhone was a well-known brand in China before Xintong Tiandi started using the name.
Apple will now have to share the iPhone name with Xintong Tiandi in China, and there’s very little it can do about it — other than appealing the decision and hoping for a different one next time. But it seems it is unlikely to be successful. It seems, however, that Xintong Tiandi only owns the trademark for leather goods, while Apple owns it for electronics. In other words, there won’t be another smartphone with the “iPhone” name on it — at least, not legally.
Apple has previously run into trademark problems in China, where trademarks aren’t as formal as they are in other countries. Back in 2012, it was forced to pay $60 million to Shenzhen company Proview Technology for its use of the “iPad” name.
The latest ruling comes less than two weeks after Apple’s iBooks Store and iTunes Movie services were closed down in China due to local regulations, while its sales in the country nosedived 26 percent last quarter.