Chinese Clothing Brand Sues Apple for App Store Trademark Infringement

KON logo on the left, Apple's App Store icon on the right

Chinese clothing brand KON has sued Apple for App Store trademark infringement. According to Phone Radar, KON wants Apple to apologize in the Chinese national media and to compensate KON for its alleged violation. Let’s look at the logos:

KON logo on the left, Apple's App Store icon on the right
KON logo on the left, Apple’s App Store icon on the right

Alleged App Store Trademark Infringement

It’s always dangerous to look at Chinese intellectual property law through the lens of a Westerner (who isn’t a lawyer). But, there are a few things that stand out.

First and foremost, Apple’s App Store icon clearly looks exactly like the KON logo, a brand that launched in 2009. But wait, Apple launched the App Store in 2008, with this icon:

Steve Jobs introduces the App Store in 2008
Steve Jobs introduces the App Store in 2008

So whose logo violates whose?

Fun with Trademark Law

Furthermore, KON is a clothing brand. In the U.S., trademarks cover particular areas, say clothing, hats, mobile phones, computers, etc. The idea is that trademark holders can protect their brand from other companies benefitting from infringing on that brand. Few courts in the U.S. would find much chance of consumers confusing Apple’s App Store icon for KON’s trademarked logo in the field of clothing.

If KON made a smartphone, it would be a different issue.

But hey, this is China we’re talking about. I don’t know the limits of Chinese trademark law, or whether the different markets these two companies compete in is relevant. Even if it is relevant, however, there’s no telling if that relevance will actually play a role in whatever decision the Beijing People’s Court hands down.

This is the same legal system, after all, where Apple lost a trademark infringement claim for “IPHONE” against a leather goods company.

Seriously, a leather goods company.

In general, Western companies are often at a disadvantage in Chinese courts when facing local companies.

Watching the Case

As noted, the Beijing People’s Court has accepted the case, and a ruling is expected in the next few weeks. We’ll update you when we learn more.

6 thoughts on “Chinese Clothing Brand Sues Apple for App Store Trademark Infringement

  • For the record, Apple has used that same stylized “A” for the logo since way before the App Store in 2009. It’s been in use at least since the Mac OS X Public Beta in Sept 2000.

  • You may be right.

    Today, the Chinese are playing three dimensional chess; the US is currently playing Russian roulette.

    When two parties are playing by the same rules, it’s a game.

    When two parties are playing by different rules, it’s war.

    Unless one of those parties is playing Russian roulette, in which case, it’s just a question of time.

  • Bryan:

    Let’s be clear. Any thought that this is about logos or trademark infringement should be retired to the kiddies’ sandbox. No, this is about the assertion of power on the global stage, and on what better target than a Western company with the world’s greatest market cap value? And if this was simply about infringement, then why the insistence on a public apology? Whom is the audience? Care to wager how much of this current dispute was spontaneous?

    President Xi was not joking when he assumed unprecedented power, and during that inaugural, asserted China’s rise to not simply a global power, but a new axis, an emerging superpower poised to not simply surpass the USA as the world’s greatest economy, but…everything else; military, diplomacy, education, new and emerging sciences, technology (especially in the energy sector, but others like medicine, pharmaceuticals, genetics…the list is long), investment in emerging economies and – oh, you’ll love this, the rules by which all of these play, rules that play to China’s advantage.

    Make no mistake, the Chinese are all about business, and they intend to hand the US its hat, and its arse, and show it the door; and with that sorted, so goes not only China’s principal Pacific rival, but the leadership of western alliances, and with them, western dominance. All of it.

    Sadly, the US appears not to appreciate how effectively its new policies play to these ambitions.

    Expect more direct, frontal challenges to US hegemony in the region and abroad. Pay attention to the South China Sea military installations and the East China Sea islands, known as the Senkaku islands in Japan and the Diaoyu islands in China. Oh, and don’t forget about what happens to Apple in court.

    1. DT has threatened to cut foreign aid and military assistance to any country that votes against the US in the General Assy tomorrow.
      I would not be surprised if China took this as an opportunity to expand its influence. I would not be surprised of they stepped up and replaced any aid the US cuts.

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