It seems like Apple just can’t catch a break. The company is being sued yet again in China and this lawsuit may just be the most bizarre one yet.
The State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television (SAPPRFT), China’s media watchdog, typically charged with cracking down on gay romcoms, unreal reality shows and Fan Bingbing’s cleavage, is now looking to protect its own intellectual property, suing Apple for broadcasting a film it made in 1994. The very obscure patriotic film, titled “Xuebo Dixiao” (血搏敌枭) — translating to something like “Bloody Fight with Our Brave Enemies” — tells the familiar story of a young patriotic Chinese doctor who fights against occupying Japanese forces to open a hospital. You can watch it here.
The film is apparently also being streamed freely on the Youku HD app, which you can download via Apple’s app store.
SAPPRFT has exclusive online broadcast rights to “Xuebo Dixiao” and claims to have suffered “huge economic losses” thanks to both Apple and Youku Tudou, China’s largest video site, which is now owned by Alibaba. Therefore, the government regulator is seeking a grand total of 50,000 yuan in damages, according to a statement issued by a court in Beijing’s Haidian district on Thursday
It’s hard to tell if SAPPRFT is serious about the suit, or just has is out for Apple. In April, the media watchdog abruptly shut down Apple’s iBooks Store and iTunes Movie services in China without explanation.
Meanwhile, this also continues a worrying trend of Apple finding itself in court in China, often on the losing side. Earlier this month, Apple was ordered to stop selling its iconic iPhone 6 and 6 Plus in China, following a successful legal challenge by a just-as-obscure Shenzhen-based
patent troll startup, which accuses the American smartphone giant of infringing on its design patent.
“It is still relatively rare for Chinese companies to attack and be successful against Western companies,” said Erick Robinson, chief patent counsel at the Rouse China law firm, at the time. “But you’re going to see more and more of this.”
The month before, Apple also lost a legal challenge against a Chinese company which can now legally sell leather goods labeled “IPHONE.”
Once one of Apple’s biggest success stories, sales are for the first time slipping in China. In response, the company invested $1 billion in China’s leading ride-hailing app Didi Chuxing and Tim Cook made a visit to Beijing to try and right the ship. It looks like he might need to make a return trip.