Trademark regulators often work in mysterious ways, especially in countries like China, where shameless copies of everything from popular gadgets to luxury cars are allowed in stores and on the streets, despite constant opposition by Western and even Eastern companies with their copyright infringed upon.
But while most Shanzhai-involved goods manufacturers/intellectual property thieves make a minimal effort to at least mask their misdeeds with cringey product names like Vphone i6, Goophone S6, PolyStation or WiWi, a handbag maker called Xintong Tiandi Technology goes so far as to sell leather items including cellphone cases actually branded as IPHONEs.
It goes without saying Apple isn’t comfortable sharing the world’s most profitable and influential gadget moniker with some obscure Chinese firm, particularly when it earns no royalties, yet after a drawn-out legal battle of several years, Cupertino didn’t manage to secure exclusive rights over the iPhone name.
And the Beijing Municipal High People’s Court even refused to make a distinction between “iPhone” and “IPHONE”, seeing as how they can be easily confused, granting Xintong the privilege to continue using the latter (and presumably, the former too) as it applied for a trademark back in 2007, and received its approval three years later under Class 18: Leather goods.
Of course, Apple had already unveiled the first-gen iPhone at the time of the shadowy Chinese company’s filing, but the device only made its way to today’s largest smartphone market in 2009, prompting the judge in the now concluded matter to rule the general public “will not link the trademark in dispute with Apple to harm its interests”, since the name wasn’t “well-known” in the region nine years ago.
Still a bizarre verdict by our standards, although obviously, Xintong can’t brand anything besides leather merchandise as an IPHONE. Meanwhile, don’t forget about Gradiente, which sells Android-powered iPhone phones in Brazil.