Apple wins in Chinese patent dispute

BEIJING • A Beijing court has overturned a ruling that Apple's iPhone 6 violated a Chinese manufacturer's patent, which saw the United States tech giant ordered to cease selling the smartphone in China.

In May last year, the Beijing intellectual property bureau had ruled that Apple violated design patents of Chinese maker Shenzhen Baili with its iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, and would be barred from selling those models.

Sales however were not suspended while Apple appealed against the administrative order.

The Intellectual Property Court in Beijing last Friday ruled in favour of the California-based firm.

The court "quashes the decision of the bureau" and "recognises that Apple... has not infringed the design patent filed by the company Shenzhen Baili", according to the verdict reported by the state judicial daily Renmin Fayuan Ribao.

The intellectual property bureau, an administrative body of Beijing municipality, had ruled that the two Apple phones infringed a Baili design patent.

It had accused the US firm of having "copied" the exterior design of Baili's 100C smartphone, which is characterised by a curved edge and rounded corners.

But, the Beijing court ruled that the iPhone 6 had features that "completely change the effect of the entire product... and both phones are easily distinguishable in the eyes of consumers", finding Baili's claim was without legal basis.

When it took on Apple in December 2014, Baili was a promising electronics firm, backed by Internet giant Baidu and eager to tap the telecoms boom.

But since then, the company has collapsed, hit by public criticism of its products, seen as being of poor quality, and more so by China's ultra-competitive smartphone market which has seen many start-ups go under.

Apple has already had intellectual property problems in China.

In May last year, a maker of "iphone" branded leather goods won a lawsuit filed by Apple, as the court ruled Xintong Tiandi had registered the word as a trademark in 2007, while Apple smartphones did not officially go on sale in China until 2009.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on March 26, 2017, with the headline 'Apple wins in Chinese patent dispute'. Print Edition | Subscribe