Even Apple Has to Keep an Eye on its Trademarks; What About You?

by | Mar 27, 2019 | Blog

Apple’s Court Battle Turns Rotten over Chinese iPhone Trademark

The company Apple, who most investors will say is the most valuable brand in the world today due to its devout consumer following, was dealt a blow in a Beijing court recently over its iPhone trademark. Apple is a perennial titan when it comes to product branding. Almost everyone has heard of the “iPhone”, “iPad”, “iPod”, “iTouch”, “iLife”, (you may see a pattern here). However, in a recent decision set forth by the Chinese court, Apple has lost its battle for the exclusive property rights in the “IPHONE” Trademark.

Apple had applied for the iPhone trademark in China in 2002, however it had not been approved until 2013. During this waiting period a small Chinese manufacturer, trademarked “IPHONE” in connection with the sale of leather handbags, wallets and phone cases in 2007. This was roughly two years prior to Apple’s release of the iPhone in China.

Apple filed suit in 2012 against this Chinese company. Holding that the company was attempting to use Apple’s fame to generate profits. However, in a ruling comparable to David versus Goliath, the Beijing court ruled that Apple had failed to prove that it was a well-known brand in China before the small manufacturer registered the mark. This ruling allows the Chinese leather makers to continue using the “IPHONE” trademark on their leather products.

We can only wait and see whether or not Apple can appeal this decision further. For now this ruling is a strong lesson and reminder to anyone attempting to claim intellectual property rights in a word or mark. The strength of a petition is only as good as the evidence provided upon submission.