A businessman's application for rights to brand flashlights with the name “iPhone” has been shelved amid trademark rows with the U.S. technology giant Apple Inc.
Cai Zhiyong, owner of a Zhejiang Province-based company, said he applied to register iPhone as a trademark for his lamps and flashlights in 2010.
“Apple objected to our application on the last day of the three-month disclosure that began in June 2011,” said Xu Jie, a lawyer representing Cai’s company in Yiwu.
On Friday, Xu received a letter from the trademark office of the State Administration for Industry and Commerce demanding the applicant provide supporting evidence within a month.
Apple stated that Cai’s firm had infringed upon its trademark and should therefore withdraw the application.
“The debate focused on whether iPhone had gained certified status as a ‘famous brand’ under protection from China’s law of trademarks,” Xu said. The law prevents famous brand names from being registered under other categories.
Xu said it took him by surprise when he found, at Cai’s request in 2010, that Apple had not registered its trademarks in all of China’s 45 commercial categories, a practice other transnational companies follow.
“It seemed to me that Apple did not care much about the China market. So the dispute was caused by Apple’s brand strategy flaws,” he said. “My big clients almost always register their trademarks in all product and service categories to protect and nurture their brands.”
At least 39 Chinese companies and individuals have attempted to register iPhone and iPad trademarks in categories that Apple has not, according to the China Trademark Web site, run by the trademark office.