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Apple Forced to Share 'iPhone' Trademark in China With Leather Accessory Maker [Updated]

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Apple no longer has the exclusive rights to the "iPhone" trademark in China after the Beijing Municipal High People's Court ruled in favor of leather goods manufacturer Xintong Tiandi Technology earlier in March. As reported by Legal Daily [Google Translate], the decision will let the Beijing company continue to sell leather bags and cases with the brand name "IPHONE" on each cover without fear of legal blowback from Apple (via Quartz).

The Cupertino company filed for a trademark of the iPhone name in China back in 2002, specifically centering around computer software and hardware, but Xintong Tiandi didn't do the same for leather goods until 2007, the year the iPhone launched in the United States. The leather case maker was granted that trademark in 2010. Following a few years of growing iPhone success, Apple decided to take the case to the Chinese trademark authority in 2012, subsequently filing a lawsuit in a lower Beijing court, and eventually losing both.

Xintong Tiandi's trademarked IPHONE case


The Chinese trademark authority's decision stemmed from its belief that "the general public will not link the trademark in dispute with Apple to harm its [Apple's] interests," stating that Apple could not prove "iPhone" was a well-known brand in China before Xintong Tiandi trademarked it in 2007.

Apple continued to appeal, all the way to the Beijing Municipal High People's Court, but the final decision has come and echoes the trademark authority's conclusion that the company can't prove it was a known trademark before 2007, since Apple's iPhone didn't launch in China until 2009. The court's judgement also made no distinction between the two stylizations of Apple's "iPhone" and Xintong Tiandi's "IPHONE" moniker.

Apple retains the computer software and hardware rights to the iPhone trademark, but with the new ruling, Xintong Tiandi can continue to manufacture and sell its "IPHONE" branded cases to the Chinese public. The accessory maker hopes that Apple will work with it moving forward to create a market that is beneficial to both definitions of "iPhone" consumers.
Xintong Tiandi wrote on its website that the court's decision is a reflection of a "free market." "We will also make full achievement of the 'iphone' trademark, and work together [with Apple] to benefit more iphone consumers!," it said on the site.
China is Apple's second largest market in total revenue following the United States, and the company has been following a steadfast strategy of expanding its presence in the country with numerous retail shops opening frequently over the past few months. Still, unease and concern with China's strict internet policies have led to a few mishaps with Apple products. Most recently, that included the unexpected closure of the iTunes and iBooks stores when a dystopian film depicting Hong Kong in an unfavorable light launched on Apple's digital platform in the country.

Update: In a new statement, Apple confirmed it intends to keep fighting the trademark battle with Xintong Tiandi, all the way up to China's highest court. "We intend to request a retrial with the Supreme People's Court and will continue to vigorously protect our trademark rights," the company said in a statement to the South China Morning Post.

Article Link: Apple Forced to Share 'iPhone' Trademark in China With Leather Accessory Maker [Updated]
 

smacrumon

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Jan 15, 2016
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"The Cupertino company filed for a trademark of the iPhone name in China back in 2002."
Five years ahead of launch--now that's Apple planning at its best!
 
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ike1707

macrumors 6502
Jan 20, 2009
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Oddly enough I actually like those holster style cases.. Appeals to me over the garden-variety wallet case anyway, with the straps and the flaps and what not.
 
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LordQ

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Sep 22, 2012
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iPhone is already an established name/brand. People will only laugh at a bag with "IPHONE" stamped on it.
 
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dampfnudel

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Aug 14, 2010
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"The Cupertino company filed for a trademark of the iPhone name in China back in 2002."
Five years ahead of launch--now that's Apple planning at its best!

During the 1980s (maybe even earlier), some people were speculating that someday people would walk around with a computer in their pocket, possibly with a communication function. After the release of the iPod and with the growing proliferation of mobile phones in the world, Steve and his team knew that day was getting closer. iPhone seemed like a logical name for their next big thing which was in the planning stage of course at that time.
 
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smacrumon

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Jan 15, 2016
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During the 1980s (maybe even earlier), some people were speculating that someday people would walk around with a computer in their pocket, possibly with a communication function. After the release of the iPod and with the growing proliferation of mobile phones in the world, Steve and his team knew that day was getting closer. iPhone seemed like a logical name for their next big thing which was in the planning stage of course at that time.
To add further, the iPad was already in prototype form in 2002. If only Apple opened up a little bit so we could see all the failures and future successes as they were being created.
 
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dampfnudel

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Aug 14, 2010
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China seems to hate apple

It might be a case of being envious at foreign, in particular US companies that have been successful for a long time and for many of those years being successful on the backs/minds of Chinese workers. Apple is the biggest "target" for China and perhaps some have this dream of a Chinese company becoming the new Samsung/Apple.
 
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kingtj

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Oct 23, 2003
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Seriously?! I actually side with the Chinese courts on this one. Trademarks and copyrights are both excessively strict in modern times. Realistically, nobody is going to think, "Ick... an iPhone? I'm not going to buy one of THOSE cellphones made by that Chinese leather case-maker! I'll just get one of these Androids instead."

And by the same token? Who CARES if someone stupidly believes this leather case with IPHONE stamped on the front of it is a genuine Apple product? It's just a cheap accessory. If it sells so darn well that it cuts noticeably into Apple's sales of its own phone cases, maybe it should start carrying them in its retail stores?

Apple should start moving manufacturing out of China if the Chinese want to play these games with Apple. I'm sure Venesulanians would be happy to make iPhones.
 
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vooke

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Jul 14, 2014
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Apple, like the rest of the world so badly and desperately needs China more than China needs them. So they have to bow
[doublepost=1462372474][/doublepost]
Apple should start moving manufacturing out of China if the Chinese want to play these games with Apple. I'm sure Venesulanians would be happy to make iPhones.
What if China shuts Apple from its markets?
 
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2457282

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Dec 6, 2012
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I guess this is a case of the tail wagging the dog. Apple better get used to it when dealing with China. Apple isn't operating from a position of power so losses like this, and the closures of their digital stores is just going to be a part of doing business in China. Apple's level of acquiescence will determine their success in China.
It is with deep regret that I totally agree on this point. Apple needs to start moving manufacturing/assembly to other countries so that they gain a better position. Right now China holds way better cards in the game of Poker.
 
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brendu

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Apr 23, 2009
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Seriously?! I actually side with the Chinese courts on this one. Trademarks and copyrights are both excessively strict in modern times. Realistically, nobody is going to think, "Ick... an iPhone? I'm not going to buy one of THOSE cellphones made by that Chinese leather case-maker! I'll just get one of these Androids instead."

And by the same token? Who CARES if someone stupidly believes this leather case with IPHONE stamped on the front of it is a genuine Apple product? It's just a cheap accessory. If it sells so darn well that it cuts noticeably into Apple's sales of its own phone cases, maybe it should start carrying them in its retail stores?
I was referring more to the iTunes ban than just this case.
 
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djgamble

macrumors 6502a
Oct 25, 2006
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Apple should start moving manufacturing out of China if the Chinese want to play these games with Apple. I'm sure Venesulanians would be happy to make iPhones.

It's a point... China only stockpiles masses of wealth and technology (while doing nothing to improve their human rights issues or standard of living for 99% of people) because we choose to use them!!

Why not move everything over to I dunno... Vietnam, India, Thailand, Indonesia...etc? I see zero point in supporting China if they're just CONSTANTLY gonna have this 'hahaha western puppets... we are superior' approach to business.

Shut down the factories, halt their expansion and force them to cooperate. Japan cooperates because the USA jumped in and went 'NO YOU LISTEN FOR A CHANGE!!' I'm sure we could teach China to play fair or spend some time in the sinbin.
 
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macfacts

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Oct 7, 2012
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Wow, so much kool aid drinking going on. Apple only owns the name iPhone for electronics. How would you guys feel if Microsoft didn't allow companies to use the word "Windows" in the name of products even if they are not a computer company. People would call MS a bully.
 
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drewyboy

macrumors 65816
Jan 27, 2005
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Man, tons of you knee jerk. China was right with this decision but you wouldn't know any better with so many drinking the kool-aid or just being oblivious to how it works.

Apple DIDN'T have a trademark for whatever category that leather goods fits under. Or did most of you not know that trademarks are categorized? Apple lost fair and square. If they wanted to prevent something like this, they should have filed for every related (including accessories) category.
 
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profmatt

macrumors 68000
Mar 7, 2015
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I'm with the Chinese courts on this one. Their argument seems sound. Not everything the Chinese do is bad. Not everything Apple does is right.

Rather than running to the courts, wasting time and money, Apple should have bought the company, or at least done a deal with it. It has infinitely much money in the bank that it doesn't want to send back to the US for fear of paying taxes.
 
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