Apple scored a rare legal victory in China last Friday after a Beijing court overturned a rather ridiculous ruling which could have prevented the company from selling some of its signature smartphones in China’s capital city.
That initial ruling was made last May by Beijing’s Intellectual Property Office which claimed that the American tech giant had violated the design patent of smartphone startup Shenzhen Baili with its iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, barring the phones from being sold in Beijing because they had “copied” the exterior design of the Baili 100C smartphone — which is characterized by a curved edge and rounded corners.
“Apple’s iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus have minor differences from Baili’s 100C. The differences are so tiny that the average customer could not notice. So, this case falls into the patent rights protection category,” the office said.
Can you tell the difference?
For some bizarre reason, the judgement did not extend to the iPhone 6S or iPhone 6S Plus which have an identical appearance to the models affected by the ruling.
Fortunately, sales of the iPhone 6 were not actually suspended in Beijing as Apple quickly appealed the order. Finally, the city’s Intellectual Property Office overturned the initial decision last Friday, ruling that Apple had not violated Baili’s patent after all.
According to AFP, the court said that the iPhone 6 included features which “completely change the effect of the entire product … and both phones are easily distinguishable in the eyes of consumers.”
Back in 2014, Shenhen Baili was a promising Chinese smartphone company with investment backing from Baidu. Since then however the company has become infamous among consumers for making shoddy phones, and has been squashed underneath the weight of its more successful domestic rivals. By the time that Baili filed its suit against Apple, the company “barely existed” and its 100C smartphones were impossible to actually find.
But, to be fair to Baili, these Chinese companies, like Xiaomi, Oppo and Vivo, have managed to best Apple as well in China, sending the California-based company’s market share plummeting in the last few years.
Of course, it also hasn’t helped that Apple has been victimized by protective Chinese courts and laws. Last April, the company lost its fourth appeal in a bizarre copyright case against a Chinese technology company which markets its leather goods (such as mobile phone cases) with an “iPHONE” trademark.
And yet, somehow, none of these is the most bizarre lawsuit filed against Apple in China over the past year.
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