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The vast majority of people who hear the term “iPhone” will associate it with Apple’s mobile devices. But in China, the Cupertino company has just lost a court case for the exclusive right to use the iconic name on its products.
Apple lost the trademark suit in the Beijing Municipal High People's Court, which ruled that Xintong Tiandi Technology can continue to use the phrase “IPHONE” on its leather wallets and accessories, according to China-based Legal Daily.
Apple had applied to trademark the “iPhone” name in China way back in 2002, but this wasn’t approved until 2013. Xintong Tiandi filed its “IPHONE” trademark in 2007 - the year the first iPhone went on sale in the US – and got approval in 2010.
Apple first brought the dispute to the Chinese courts in 2012, but its argument was thrown out on the basis that iPhones weren’t sold in mainland China until 2009, and therefore the company couldn’t prove it was a well-known name in the country when Xintong Tiandi trademarked it in 2007.
A 2013 ruling from the first case stated: “The general public will not link the trademark in dispute with Apple to harm its [Apple’s] interests.”
Now that Apple’s appeal has been rejected, Xintong Tian can continue selling its IPHONE goods. The Bejing-based company said the ruling is reflective of a “free market,” and added: "We will also make full achievement of the 'iphone' trademark, and work together [with Apple] to benefit more iphone consumers."
China may be Apple’s second-largest market after the US, but the company has been having a tough time in the country lately. Chinese regulators reportedly shut down iTunes Movies and the iBooks Store last month, and billionaire investor Carl Icahn sold his entire stake in Apple last week, citing the risk of China’s influence on the stock.