A Beijing court has ordered Apple to stop selling the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus in the city, having ruled that the phone’s design is too similar to a Chinese brand. The infringement claims were brought against Apple by Shenzhen Baili for its 100C smartphone, says the Beijing Intellectual Property Bureau. Apple can still appeal the decision. [See updated at bottom with Apple’s comment.]
The financial impact of the ruling is unclear. As The WSJ reported this morning, several mobile phone stores in the city had already stopped selling the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus a couple of months ago, and began selling newer models. In addition, it said that Apple is soon ending production of both phones.
However, the ruling is one of a series of challenges Apple has faced while trying to do business in the country, which is its largest market outside the U.S., thanks to iPhone sales and iOS app revenue. The company in April was ordered to close its iBooks and iTunes Movies stores by a Chinese government regulator just six months after launching. This was likely due to new government regulations that are designed to make it more difficult for foreign owners to publish online content — they have to find a domestic partner, as well as receive government approval.
Meanwhile, declining iPhone sales contributed to Apple’s first-ever drop in sales, announced also in April. Sales in mainland China fell 11 percent. And sales in greater China, including Hong Kong and Taiwan, were down 26 percent.
Despite the struggles, China remains a key market for Apple, which prompted a visit from Apple CEO Tim Cook in May. There, he met with China’s main internet and telecommunications regulator during a trip to Beijing. Following the visit, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology praised Apple’s extensive collaboration with China, and said it hoped the company would continue to expand its business, research and development and supply chain there.
Apple also recently invested $1 billion in Chinese ride-hailing company Didi Chuxing, China’s largest ride-hailing app. Cook said that the investment was made for “strategic reasons” — one of those reasons being an attempt by the company to win favor with Beijing, amid these ongoing challenges to it business.
Update, 6/17/16, 1 PM ET –
Apple has responded to the news with a comment about the iPhone’s availability in China, following the report. It says the order has been stayed pending review:
“iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus as well as iPhone 6s, iPhone 6S Plus and iPhone SE models are all available for sale today in China. We appealed an administrative order from a regional patent tribunal in Beijing last month and as a result the order has been stayed pending review by the Beijing IP Court.”