Patents On iPhone’s Iconic Design Challenged In China As “Invalid”

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Over in China, Apple hasn’t had much luck in preventing local gadget knockoff artists from aping the iconic appearance of the iPhone in their own handsets. One of Apple’s few victories in this space, in fact, is their recent success in forcing notorious iPhone clone maker Meizu to shutter production.

All’s not cheery for Apple in China, though. Now another Chinese company called Herron Network Information Co. has come along, and they’re suing Apple as well as the Chinese Patent Bureau over Apple’s iPhone patents, which they attempt to characterize as not just overly broad, but “invalid.”

According to Meizu, Apple was very vague about patenting at least the look of the iPhone in China: they say that Apple’s iPhone-related patents merely describe a rectangular device with round edges with a round button under a vertically oriented display.

What Herron is asserting here is that that description is way too broad to be considered a patent: they say it isn’t just stifling local competition (i.e. Meizu) but more respectable brands like LG and HTC.

Obviously, if Herron can get the Chinese Patent Bureau to throw out Apple’s appearance-based iPhone patents, that’ll be quite the coup for knockoff makers. Not that I suspect that they will stop making iPhone knockoffs either way, of course… just a victory here would put them on the right side of the law, for a change.