Beijing Regulators Block Sales Of iPhones, Claiming The Design Is Too Close To Chinese Company's Phone

from the live-by-rounded-corners,-die-by-rounded-corners dept

This one was so easy to predict. For the past couple of decades, completely clueless US politicians and bureaucrats (and tech company execs) have been screaming about how China "doesn't respect" our intellectual property. They demanded that China "get more serious" about patents and respecting IP. And for nearly a decade we've been warning those people to be careful what you wish for. Because, now China has massively ramped up its patent system, often by using odd incentives, but rather than helping American companies that demanded it, pretty much every patent lawsuit in China has been about a Chinese company punishing or blocking foreign competition. This is because the Chinese aren't stupid. It's a country that has thrived on protectionism, despite global efforts to "open up trade," and here it realized that the West was handing them the perfect trade barrier: one that let them say they were doing what the West wanted, while giving it the perfect excuse to block out foreign competition.

So, while clueless US and European IP bureaucrats celebrated China issuing so many patents, they totally missed that they'd actually given away everything.

And, now you get stories like this: Apple has been banned from selling the iPhone 6 or iPhone 6s in Beijing, because of patent infringement. Regulators found that the design was too similar to the design of a Chinese firm's phone.

Apple Inc. violated the design patents of a Chinese device maker and may have to halt sales of its latest iPhones in Beijing, the city’s intellectual property authority ruled, handing the U.S. company its latest setback in a pivotal market.

The iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus infringe on Shenzhen Baili’s patent rights because of similarities to its 100C phone, the Beijing Intellectual Property Office wrote in its decision.

Live by rounded corner patents, die by rounded corner patents.

Many are speculating that Apple's recent $1 billion investment in the Chinese Uber clone Didi was in part to help deal with attacks like this. Basically every American company that wants to sell products in China ends up investing in Chinese companies for this kind of purpose. But, once again, just as we've been saying for years, the Chinese, unlike many in the West, absolutely recognize what patents are: a trade barrier, and they must love the fact that the US keeps asking them to build more trade barriers.

Until US patent officials finally understand that patents are not about innovation, but are really about restraints on trade, innovation and competition, we're only going to see more and more stories like this.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Jun 2016 @ 9:47am

    Your mistake is you believe that US patent officials don't understand that patents are not about innovation - they understand but they don't care as long as they get their money and incentives from the likes of Oracle, Apple and Disney.
    As long as the US Patent officials are paid based on the number of the granted patents, they'll keep approving them on an industrial scale.
    But payback is a bitch and it's payback time in China now :)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Chris ODonnell (profile), 17 Jun 2016 @ 9:49am

    I've got a patent on not understanding what patents are really about. So I'll be suing Apple for not properly licensing my lack of a clue.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    DannyB (profile), 17 Jun 2016 @ 9:56am

    Live by the Patent, Die by the Patent

    Dear Apple,

    Patent trolling works both ways? Who knew!

    I hope you enjoy the Asians doing what you taught them how to do.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Jun 2016 @ 9:59am

    clueless

    american business in a nutshell. always was. always will be. all ways.

    hope you don't mind nutshells.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Jun 2016 @ 10:07am

    If its just a design patent they should be able
    to change the design to get round it,
    Make a special chinese iphone.
    OF course theres a limited no of ways you can make a phone
    with rectangular glass screen thats usuable and attractive to consumers .
    They might get sued by another chinese company .
    See how a chinese phone company bought patents from microsoft
    cos they want to get acess to the western market.
    Patent officials make money by selling patents
    even if they are used by trolls or to block
    competition.
    Don,t expect any change of mind in the near future
    from them.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Coyne Tibbets (profile), 17 Jun 2016 @ 10:44am

      Re:

      Sure. Just make iPhone thick and clumsy, with square corners and big clunky buttons. Just like Apple "suggested" for Samsung phones.

      I don't like the IP nonsense. But for Apple: no sympathy at all.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Jun 2016 @ 10:11am

    Are Apple wishing that they had invented lubricated corners?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Jun 2016 @ 10:26am

    Hoist on Their Own Petard

    And yet, the target wall remains unbreached. Irony of a very high order that.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Jun 2016 @ 10:31am

    Asia has always been a "protectionist" market. Specifically, the Japanese. Now that the Chinese are starting to use patents to block U.S. competition, the United States got exactly what it deserved. When you ask China to get more serious about patent law and they do, you're not going to be happy with the end result. Apple has been trying to break into the Asian markets and now they've been slapped down by the Chinese the same way that Apple continues to slap Samsung down in the United States.

    Apple forgot about one very important credo when it comes to business: if you're going to continue to slap down foreign competition in your home country (The United States), then don't be surprised when the same thing happens to you when you try to expand into those foreign markets.

    Apple got exactly what it deserved. It became a trademark bull in the U.S. marketplace when it comes to smartphones and now it's receiving the same punishment that it has been dishing out. It's about FUCKING time that someone slapped Apple down.

    HOORAH TO THE CHINESE!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Wendy Cockcroft, 20 Jun 2016 @ 7:56am

      Re:

      The Chinese have always been protectionist and suspicious of The Foreigners. When Britain ended up with a massive trade deficit with them caused by British consumption of tea, they got as many Chinese hooked on Opium as possible, then went to war to keep them that way. Then they got some tea plants over to India and Ceylon, who "understood" that trade is a two-way street. Did you know that taxes on tea was one of the factors in the American War of Independence?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Jun 2016 @ 10:40am

    Why - because it has rounded corners?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      JBDragon (profile), 20 Jun 2016 @ 8:30am

      Re:

      That's just a dumb thing that clueless idiots like to keep bring up!!!

      For one thing, it was a number of items as a whole that made a iPhone, and Rounded Corners was 1 thing out of many. It also wasn't a Patent, but Trade Dress. 2 complexly different things.

      You Apple haters keep repeating the same old B.S. garbage. having zero clue what you're talking about. But you keep on bringing up only Rounded Corners and Patent and you're 100% WRONG!!!!!!!!! Apple did no such thing.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Jun 2016 @ 11:19am

    The shark's-egg iPhone, with spiral sharp spines on each corner. Conveniently attaches to any surface, including human skin!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 17 Jun 2016 @ 12:23pm

    Who would have thought that rounded corners could do so much damage...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Jun 2016 @ 12:31pm

    Strategically placed thremonuclear devices could resolve this problem and solve over population too.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Jun 2016 @ 1:20pm

    I guess all the criticism has been right

    All the talk that the Chinese just copy the west has been proved true. But when they do, they pull it off so well.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Jun 2016 @ 3:42pm

    Oh the bitter taste of irony...

    Love it! Apple deserves this more than most any other company on the planet. To be walled off from 1 billion potential customers is devastating. Wouldn't it be nice if companies just competed on their products rather than their patent thicket?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Skeeter, 17 Jun 2016 @ 3:49pm

    The Truth on Chinese Business

    I worked in 'heavy industry' (manufacturing) for decades, and more than once (on an engineering level) had to deal with the fiasco of Chinese manufacturing and government (one-and-the-same).

    Companies like the 'Big 3 Auto', industrial machinery, auto components, electronics and more - before you could 'bring a product in to retail', you had to submit all working prototype drawings, released product drawings, sometimes samples, and basically every bit of intellectual bit of property related to what you were selling, before they would even review it for retail consideration. More than once (apparently, after their staff of trained monkeys couldn't rebuild a model from submitted drawings) I had to make a trip, just to show, explain and train them in 'how this works', and how 'it really is the drawings we go by at our factories'.

    I knew as early as 1997 that they were building massive government-owned blueprint databases on every single thing we owned, made and sold. Our 'Harvard Management' group kept telling us, 'it's ok, it's just their way', 'they would never undercut us', 'they could never compete'.

    Hate to break it to 'Harvard Management', but you've been myopic more than once in history. This is no different, and common sense said this is EXACTLY what they were preparing to do, once they had enough of what we gave them for free. Sure, we don't build 1987 Jeeps anymore - but ask yourself, if China could sell you one for $8,000 would you buy it? Now, if their people think that a new 1987 Jeep for $8,000 trumps a new $50,000 Chevy, where do you think that market is going to shift to? Where did our jobs go? It's right here.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 17 Jun 2016 @ 4:33pm

      Re: The Truth on Chinese Business

      A few years back ITT illegally gave their night vision technology to the Chinese. Someone should be in jail over that one.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Matthew A. Sawtell, 19 Jun 2016 @ 9:08am

      Re: The Truth on Chinese Business - The issue with 'The Harvard Business Model'

      Seeker,

      Ah yes, the ever popular 'The Harvard Business Model', where myopia is taken to new heights as an art form. I take it that management group you dealt with has long been released from the companies they worked for, right?

      Matthew A. Sawtell

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 24 Jun 2016 @ 10:22am

        Re: Re: The Truth on Chinese Business - The issue with 'The Harvard Business Model'

        I take it that management group you dealt with has long been released from the companies they worked for, right?

        You're kidding, right?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Kronomex, 17 Jun 2016 @ 4:32pm

    This whole situation smacks more of not enough kickbacks and brown envelopes going to the right people.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    morganwick (profile), 17 Jun 2016 @ 5:50pm

    This is exactly what American companies have wanted all along. They want the use of patents as trade barriers to become standard around the world so that everyone sees it as normal and they can litigate the little guy out of business, then they negotiate "free trade agreements" that further tip the playing field towards big companies and ensure stuff like this inevitably works out in their favor. This is the world they've wanted to build all along, where everything is decided by ridiculous lawsuits between big corporations and no one else can even hope to challenge them and win. They're building a world where the corporation reigns supreme, and giving power to competing corporations is just the cost of getting there.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Jun 2016 @ 5:27am

    by the way, this wasn't a bureaucratic faux pas. charge this one to business. government sits on the right knee of business and nods when business speaks.

    it looks around the room and when it quips in response to business, its lower jaw wags up and down in a mechanical fashion. only, this audience isn't laughing. doesn't matter. this show goes on whatever the audience does or doesn't do.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    sman88, 20 Jun 2016 @ 6:33am

    Who knew...

    ...that a country known for piracy is doing this. Too funny!!!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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