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Chinese Smartphone Company Sues Apple for IP Infringement

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By Jonathan R. Tung, Esq. on June 28, 2016 1:58 PM

Last week reports were coming out of tech news that Apple was being forced to stop selling iPhones in Beijing due to a pending patent violation claim by a Chinese smartphone company Shenzhen Baili. As it turns out, sales will continue, but we were struck by the role reversal. That's right: a Chinese company was suing a Western company for copying IP.

But it gets a little bit better than that. It turns out that the business community in China is equally adept at copying questionable Western business practices as it is at copying American trademarks. It's looking more and more like Shenzhen Baili is nothing more than a patent troll.

"Barely Exists"

News that the channels of supply might threaten Apple's most coveted market caused much consternation among Apple's investors. This situation has done nothing to help increasing concerns that China's economy is entering into a corrective period.

But according to reports by The Wall Street Journal, Shenzhen Baili "barely exists." In fact, WSJ writes that there is no working phone and not even a company office. In the words of Yoni Heisler at BGR, "what we have here is nothing more than your run of the mill patent troll."

Still, the lawyer for the company has maintained that the focus should be whether Apple's phone violate the underlying patent, not whether the company makes phones anymore, or indeed, if the operation is really legitimate.

By now, it's accepted that companies in China can have a real problem with respecting the concept of intellectual property. Sometimes, logo copying can transcend multiple brands. Take a look at this logo by Sichuan Fangguo. It looks like the stunted lovechild of Apple's logo and the LG logo. Even entire landscapes are copied.

Maybe Moot?

The patent infringement case may turn out to be moot in the coming months as Apple readies itself for the launch of iPhone 7. In that case, as Apple stores phase out the current iPhone models, Shenzhen Baili will have to find some other theory to bring suit. Even so, in-house lawyers will no doubt be facing more patent trolling issues not only here at home, but throughout the planet. Vigilance, as always.

Incidentally, BGR reports that former employees of the suspected patent trolling company feel that the move is a planned publicity stunt aimed at drawing attention to the company's phones.

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