In China, there are now two iPhones, and one isn’t Apple’s

4 May 2016

One of the highest courts in China has issued a ruling that is likely to face considerable opposition from Apple after it lost the right to trademark the name ‘iPhone’ to a company that makes leather handbags.

While Apple has become used to fighting nation states in the courtroom, its latest defeat in the Beijing Municipal High People’s Court presents a new challenge for the company.

According to the BBC, a Chinese state media agency has reported that the American tech giant will no longer have exclusivity over the brand name iPhone, with Xintong Tiandi Technology also being deemed legally allowed to use the famous brand name.

A case 14 years in the making

A confusing aspect of this case, however, is that, despite technology being in its name, the Chinese company is largely a fashion company that makes leather handbags and mobile phone cases that come with the iPhone name.

As one of the largest producers of goods of all sorts in the world, China has developed a reputation for flooding the market with replica goods and, because of the popularity of Apple products, manufacturers have been illegally creating much cheaper replicas for some time now.

In this instance, however, despite the fact that Apple filed a trademark in China for the iPhone name as far back as 2002, the trademark wasn’t approved until 2013, which allowed time for Xintong Tiandi Technology to release its own iPhone products having filed a trademark application in 2007.

Two years later, Apple finally broke into the Chinese market and, since 2012, has been fighting a legal battle to retain exclusivity to its famous name, but this decision marks a hat-trick of failures in the court, which has consistently ruled against the American company.

The Chinese state has had an ongoing battle with some of the major American tech companies, but Apple, in particular, with it having recently shut down the company’s iBooks and iTunes stores over a demand that the content contained within must be stored on servers in China.

Apple store image via Viktoria Roy/Shutterstock

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic