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.

IPHONE case trademark

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.

Tag: China

Top Rated Comments

captain cadet Avatar
72 months ago
Tomorrow post: Samsung launch Galaxy iPhone S in China
Score: 20 Votes (Like | Disagree)
macfacts Avatar
72 months ago
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.
Score: 10 Votes (Like | Disagree)
brendu Avatar
72 months ago
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.
Score: 10 Votes (Like | Disagree)
drewyboy Avatar
72 months ago
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.
Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)
kingtj Avatar
72 months ago
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.
Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)
69Mustang Avatar
72 months ago
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.
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Related Stories

studio buds family

Beats Studio Buds Debuting Today With Active Noise Cancellation, Stemless Design, and More for $150

Monday June 14, 2021 8:00 am PDT by
We've seen a lot of teasers about the Beats Studio Buds over the past month since they first showed up in Apple's beta software updates, and today they're finally official. The Beats Studio Buds are available to order today in red, white, and black ahead of a June 24 ship date, and they're priced at $149.99. The Studio Buds are the first Beats-branded earbuds to truly compete with AirPods...
macos catalina legacy system extension alert

Apple Begins Warning Users That 'Legacy System Extensions' Won't Work With a Future Version of macOS

Wednesday March 25, 2020 9:53 am PDT by
Apple has shared a new support document that indicates kernel extensions — which it calls "legacy system extensions" — will not be compatible with a future version of macOS because they "aren't as secure or reliable as modern alternatives."System extensions are a category of software that works in the background to extend the functionality of your Mac. Some apps install kernel extensions, which...
General Spotify Feature

Spotify Pauses Plans to Add AirPlay 2 Support to iOS App [Update: Spotify Clarifies]

Friday August 6, 2021 9:07 am PDT by
See update at bottom of article Spotify this week confirmed that its plans to add AirPlay 2 support to its iOS app have been placed on indefinite hiatus. In an online discussion forum post, a Spotify representative said the streaming music service had been working on supporting AirPlay 2, but the company has paused the efforts "for now" due to "audio driver compatibility issues." The...
apple privacy

Apple Publishes FAQ to Address Concerns About CSAM Detection and Messages Scanning

Monday August 9, 2021 1:50 am PDT by
Apple has published a FAQ titled "Expanded Protections for Children" which aims to allay users' privacy concerns about the new CSAM detection in iCloud Photos and communication safety for Messages features that the company announced last week. "Since we announced these features, many stakeholders including privacy organizations and child safety organizations have expressed their support of...
youtube apple tv

YouTube Discontinuing 3rd-Generation Apple TV App, AirPlay Still Available

Wednesday February 3, 2021 3:09 pm PST by
YouTube is planning to stop supporting its YouTube app on the third-generation Apple TV models, where YouTube has long been available as a channel option. A 9to5Mac reader received a message about the upcoming app discontinuation, which is set to take place in March.Starting early March, the YouTube app will no longer be available on Apple TV (3rd generation). You can still watch YouTube on...
m1 macbook air

Kuo: Mini-LED MacBook Air Coming in Mid-2022

Thursday July 22, 2021 7:48 pm PDT by
Apple will release a new version of the MacBook Air around the middle of 2022, Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said today in note to investors seen by MacRumors. The upcoming MacBook Air will feature a 13.3-inch mini-LED display, which would make it the second Mac to gain mini-LED technology after the 2021 MacBook Pro, which is rumored to include a mini-LED display and is expected to launch later ...
Apple Films Tom Hanks Finch First Look

Apple Original Film 'Finch' Starring Tom Hanks to Premiere November 5

Thursday August 12, 2021 8:52 am PDT by
Apple today announced that the original film "Finch," starring Tom Hanks in its titular role, will premiere on Apple TV+ on Friday, November 5 and shared a first-look image from the film. The first look at "Finch," shared by Apple. The film, which is anticipated to be an awards season contender, revolves around a man, a robot (played by "Get Out" actor Caleb Landry Jones), and a dog that form ...
whatsintheboxiphonexs

Apple's iPhone XS, XS Max and XR Won't Ship With Lightning to 3.5mm Headphone Jack Adapter

Wednesday September 12, 2018 12:58 pm PDT by
Since the headphone jack was removed from the iPhone with the launch of the iPhone 7, Apple has bundled iPhones with a Lightning to 3.5mm Headphone Jack Adapter for customers who continue to have 3.5mm headphones. With the launch of the iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, and iPhone XR, Apple is discontinuing this practice and will not include the Lightning to 3.5mm Headphone Jack Adapter. On the...
macbook air m1 first benchmark

Apple Silicon M1 Chip in MacBook Air Outperforms High-End 16-Inch MacBook Pro

Wednesday November 11, 2020 4:43 pm PST by
Apple introduced the first MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, and Mac mini with M1 Apple Silicon chips yesterday, and as of today, the first benchmark of the new chip appears to be showing up on the Geekbench site. The M1 chip, which belongs to a MacBook Air with 8GB RAM, features a single-core score of 1687 and a multi-core score of 7433. According to the benchmark, the M1 has a 3.2GHz base...
iphone 13 teal with text

Apple Begins Preparation for iPhone 13 Production Ahead of Fall Launch

Monday June 28, 2021 3:29 am PDT by
We're just a few months away from when Apple is expected to reveal the 2021 iPhone, dubbed the "iPhone 13." In preparation for its launch, it has been pulling in shipments of different components needed to produce the new iPhones, according to a report from DigiTimes. In years past, Apple released its latest iPhone lineup, alongside a new Apple Watch, during a September event at Apple Park....