Dubbed for years both ironically and flatteringly the “Apple of China”, Xiaomi has managed to forge its own path to the upper echelons of the smartphone industry in 2017, threatening Huawei’s domination over the paramount domestic market, as well as Samsung’s long-standing reign in India.
All in all however, Xiaomi is still only the world’s fifth largest smartphone vendor, struggling to officially expand across the old continent while continuing to delay its highly anticipated US commercial debut.
The Chinese company may not be very keen to pursue its Western ambitions for legal reasons in addition to logistical difficulties, as various “Mi” designs and even names could face patent or copyright infringement accusations.
Just take the Xiaomi Mi Pad tablet family, inaugurated more than three years ago as a blatant iPad mini rip-off. The confusing trademark could never be registered on EU territory, as a 2014 application with the EU Intellectual Property Office was held off, provisionally denied following Apple’s formal complaint, and now rejected again by the European Union’s second-highest court.
The General Court ruled that “the dissimilarity between the signs at issue, resulting from the presence of the additional letter ‘m’ at the beginning of “Mi Pad”, is not sufficient to offset the high degree of visual and phonetic similarity between the two signs.”
In other words, the Mi Pad and iPad names and symbols are way too similar for the former to ever be granted favorable trademark registration in Europe, especially since English-speaking consumers are “likely to understand the prefix “mi” as meaning “my” and therefore pronounce the “i” of Mi Pad and iPad in the same way.”