Patent fights come and go. Technology companies like Apple patent everything that looks good and plenty of what doesn’t. If it’s an idea, it’s patentable, and a patent treasure trove helps protect a company from patent trolls and competitors. As for Apple, the company gets sued frequently because it has nearly $200-billion in cash. And, Apple will also sue competitors if patents have been infringed by others.
Apple’s most recent skirmish in the patent wars came from a nearly unknown Chinese smartphone maker called Shenzhen Baili. Apple apparently stole the design of iPhone 6 and 6s from the Baili 100+ and 100C.
The Baili smartphone should look familiar for two basic reasons. First, it’s a rip-off of early iPhone models with rounded edges. Second, it’s merely a copy of every other Android-based smartphone on the market. Flat. Thin. Rounded edges.
Those similarities didn’t stop Shenzhen Baili from suing Apple for copying their Baili 100 designs. Worse yet, The Beijing Intellectual Property Office ruled that Apple’s iconic iPhone 6 and 6s line violate the Chinese maker’s patents.
What’s going on?
Business in China works differently than it does in Silicon Valley (and in most developed countries where intellectual property laws help to protect designers and inventors). Apple is going through a shakedown by a little known company for a few reasons. First, money. Apple has lots of it and small Chinese companies do not. Second, precedent. Beating Apple in public– obvious shakedown or not– makes a small technology company look like a Goliath killer.
Shenzhen Baili is David. Apple is Goliath.
Apple finds itself in a difficult situation in China these days as it’s being given the shakedown by courts, government officials, and even technology competitors. Why? Apple has money. Lots of money. The Beijing Intellectual Property Office is either on the take or crazy stupid not to see how much the Shenzhen Baili 100 smartphone looks like the iPhone from 2008-2009. Who stole what from whom?
Worse, China has so many fly-by-night manufacturers who have little regard for intellectual property that the company cannot find all those that infringe upon Apple’s designs, and doesn’t want the public black eye if it should lose to one.
The Bejing Intellectual Property Court may have ruled that Apple stop selling the iPhone 6 and 6s line in Beijing, but it also accepted an appeal to review the ruling.
For now, this is business as usual for Apple. The company has plenty of money and plenty of unscrupulous competitors who are unable to make a profit in the marketplace so want to claim some of Apple’s money for themselves and how they do so doesn’t matter.
That’s business as usual for Apple in China.