When you hear the world “iPhone,” an image of Apple’s iconic smartphone will inevitably pop in your head. In China, however, that may not necessarily be the case going forward – Apple no longer exclusively owns the name “iPhone” name after a legal battle against a Chinese company.
Apple has always tried its hardest to protect its intellectual property. According to TheVerge, Apple applied to trademark the name “iPhone” in 2002 in China – long before most people had any idea what an iPhone was (or would be).
In 2007, however, right around the time the first-generation iPhone hit the consumer market, a Chinese company called Xintong Tiandi applied for the “IPHONE” trademark. Xintong Tiandi’s trademark was approved in 2010 under Class 18: Leather Goods. It wasn’t until 2013 that Apple’s trademark was approved, under Class 9: Electrical and Scientific Apparatus.
Apple began to fight for exclusive rights to the name in 2012, taking the case to the Chinese Trademark Authority before filing a lawsuit in a lower Beijing court – both dismissed Apple’s claims. Apple appealed to the Beijing Municipal High People’s Court, but the company’s claims were again rejected on March 31st.
According to Chinese state-run newspaper the Legal Daily, a 2013 ruling from the Chinese Trademark Authority stated that Apple couldn’t prove that “IPHONE” was a well-enough known trademark in China before Xintong Tiandi registered their trademark in 2007, also claiming that “the general public will not link the trademark in dispute with Apple to harm [Apple’s] interests.”
This isn’t the first time Apple has had issues with their trademarks in China – a court ruling in 2012 declared that Apple must pay a Shenzhen tech company over the ‘iPad’ name.
Xintong Tiandi issued a statement on their website stating that they “will make full achievement of the ‘iphone’ trademark, and work together [with Apple] to benefit more iphone consumers!” The company creates leather goods such as purses, wallets, briefcases, passport wallets, and yes, even cell phone cases. Head on over to iphone.vc if you’d like to take a look at their goods – you may find the perfect cell phone case for your new iPhone SE.