Apple has just hit its latest setback in China, after a court ruled that it had infringed on the design patent of a Chinese smartphone maker and may have to stop selling the iPhone in Beijing as a result.
The Beijing Intellectual Property Office claims that the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus are patent-infringingly close in design to Shenzhen Baili’s 100C phone: one of a large number of OEMs in China trying to cash in on the country’s boom in smartphone sales.
“Apple’s iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus have minor differences from Baili’s 100C,” the ruling read. “[However] the differences are so tiny that the average customer could not notice, so this case falls into the patent rights protection category.”
While Apple hasn’t commented on this court case, it does have the option of fighting a sales ban by appealing to the Beijing Higher People’s Court and the Supreme People’s Court.
As noted, this isn’t the first knock-back Apple has suffered in China. In early May, a Chinese court ruled that Apple no longer has the exclusive rights to the “iPhone” name in the country, after a court case involving a company which uses the name for its line of leather handbags, wallets, purses, smartphone cases, and more.
The month before that, the Chinese government forced Apple to shut down its iBooks Store and iTunes Movies in the country — just six months after the services were first made available.
Last year, Apple was additionally forced to accept the Chinese government’s demands that it run network safety evaluations on all Apple products before they can be imported into the country, while its products were booted off the list of approved state purchases — in favor of Chinese-made products.
Through all of this, Tim Cook has continued to insist that Apple will accelerate its investment in China (and with other comparably-sized developing markets not likely to yield the same ROI any time soon, Apple may not have a choice!), but this latest setback is one more kick in the teeth.