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Apple’s iPhone May Face Trademark Problems In China

A Chinese company, which owns the trademark “i-phone,” may make it difficult for Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) to sell a similarly spelled product in the same market, reports IDG News Service.

Apple has said it hopes to enter the very large market within the next year, and is rumored to be in talks with China Unicom to offer the iPhone. But the similarities of the two names would make it illegal to sell the phone under that name in China, said Wang Hao, general manager of BSFD, an intellectual property law agency in Beijing. Apparently, Apple applied for the iPhone trademark in China in late 2002, but its application only covered computer hardware and software — not phones, according to the Web site of China’s trademark office. Two years later, the Chinese company, called Hanwang Technology, which makes electronic devices and Chinese handwriting recognition systems, registered the i-phone trademark covering phones.

A spokesperson for the Chinese company said it is not in talks with Apple over the rights to the name and declined to say what Hanwang would do if Apple announced plans to sell the iPhone in China. An Apple spokeswoman declined to comment.

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