Apple loses exclusive ownership of 'iPhone' name in China

A recent ruling by a Chinese court has granted the "IPHONE" trademark to a local firm which sells leather goods such as handbags and mobile phone cases.

US technology giant Apple Inc has lost its exclusive rights of the "iPhone" trademark in China after the Beijing Municipal High People's Court ruled in favour of Xintong Tiandi Technology -- a handbag and leather cases maker selling goods under the name "IPHONE", according to a Legal Daily report last week.

The decision is now final, which means Xintong Tiandi Technology is able to keep on selling leather goods labelled with the "IPHONE" brand.

Apple claimed its iPhone products have been globally popular since the launch of its first generation product on June 29, 2007. The smartphone handset also officially hit the shelves in China in October 2009, and the company argued that it was therefore a well-known brand in China and should be able to fend off other similar trademark registrations according to laws.

However, the higher court in China ruled that Apple failed to prove that "iPhone" was already a well-known trademark in China in 2007 when Xintong Tiandi Technology filed registration, ahead of iPhone's official debut in the country in 2009.

Apple filed its "iPhone" trademark in the category of "computer hardware and software" in China in October 2002, but the application didn't get approval until November 2013. Xintong Tiandi Technology, on the other hand, applied to register its trademark "IPHONE" in the category of "leather goods" in China in September 2007.

Apple firstly brought the case to the Chinese trademark authority in 2012, but failed to prevent Xintong Tiandi Technology from getting the "IPHONE" trademark in 2013. The Cupertino-based company later filed a lawsuit against the Beijing-based firm in a lower Beijing court, and then appealed to the higher court when that failed.