Tech giant says it won't allow another company to 'profit from using our brand.'

By Don Reisinger
May 5, 2016

Apple has vowed to fight for its iPhone trademark in China after losing exclusive rights earlier this week.

Apple will appeal its case against Xintong Tiandi to China’s top court after a lower court ruled that the Chinese company has the right to use the “iPhone” mark on its leather goods.

“Apple is disappointed the Beijing Higher People’s Court chose to allow Xintong to use the IPHONE mark for leather goods when we have prevailed in several other cases against Xintong,” the company said in a statement. “We intend to request a retrial with the Supreme People’s Court and will continue to vigorously protect our trademark rights. We work hard to make the best products in the world and want to ensure our customers’ experience is not compromised by companies who try to profit from using our brand.”

The South China Morning Post earlier reported about Apple’s legal plans.

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Earlier this week, the Beijing Higher People’s Court said that Xintong Tiandi, which makes a range of products, could use the iPhone branding across its line of leather goods. The court argued that while Apple might have trademarked the iPhone name long before Xintong tried to do so, the smartphone’s brand wasn’t popular in China until 2009, when it first reached the country’s shores. Xintong applied for its own iPhone trademark on leather goods in 2007—before, the court argued, the iPhone became prominent in China.

Apple filed for a trademark in China in 2002 that related to hardware and software. Chinese authorities finally approved the mark in 2013.

Small Chinese companies often use well-known international brands on their own products and file trademark applications for those names before overseas companies have theirs approved. They also often apply for trademarks on different types of goods, effectively creating a scenario in which the same brand could be used for different types of products.

A similar situation played out with Xintong. Since 2012, Apple AAPL has been battling with Xintong over its use of iPhone and other Apple trademarks that have been used by the Chinese company.

Trademark battles are nothing new for major U.S. companies in China. Indeed, for the last several years, major brands have called on the country’s authorities to crack down on its rampant counterfeit goods market, as well as on Chinese companies that use popular Western trademarks. What’s more, there have even been instances of retail stores that look nearly identical to the real thing cropping up across the country. The trouble? The real brand isn’t operating those faked stores.

In some trademark disputes, Western companies have had to dole out cash for use of their brands. In 2014, for example, Tesla TSLA settled a dispute with an individual who had previously registered the company’s trademark in China. It’s unknown whether Tesla paid up, but that individual had requested millions of dollars from Tesla for it to use the it name in China.

Only time will tell what will come of Apple’s latest iPhone trademark troubles, but the company has a solid track record. It has faced off with Xintong on similar cases in the past and won each time.

Xintong Tiandi did not respond to a request for comment.

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