A Chinese leather goods brand given the right to trademark ‘iPhone’ name
Apple has recently lost a trademark fight with a company that makes handbags and other leather goods. Xintong Tiandi Technology, a Chinese company, has been granted the right by the Beijing Municipal High People’s Court to continue using the name ‘IPHONE’.
Apple filed a petition in the High People’s Court to stop Xintong Tiandi from using the name IPHONE. The Chinese company has, however, been using the name since 2007 on their handbags and various other products including leather phone cases, passport covers, and handbags.
Apple has not always owned the name ‘iPhone’. They filed a trademark bid for it back in 2002 which wasn’t approved until 2013. Furthermore, Apple did not start selling iPhone in China until 2009. And by the time they received trademark rights, ‘IPHONE’ was already an established brand name in China.
On March 30 the court upheld an earlier ruling, from 2013, according to which Apple could not prove that “IPHONE” was already a well-known name in China in 2007. As such, the 2013 ruling reads in part, “the general public will not link the trademark in dispute with Apple to harm its [Apple’s] interests.”
After the decision was handed down, Xintong Tiandi happily posted on their website: “The ‘iphone’ brand can blossom widely outside Apple.”
Apple’s relationship with China has been some what strained. In 2012, a court ordered Apple to pay $60 million to a company in Scenzhen to use the “iPad” name in China. Recently, they also took down Apple Entertainment in accordance with the strict rules against content produced by foriegn companies. Furthermore, Apple’s Q1 year-on-year earnings for 2016 fell by 26% in China which happens to be a big market for the tech giant.