China's iPhone 6 Sales Ban Not a Big Problem for Apple

Beijing's Intellectual Property Bureau has ordered Apple to stop selling the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus in the city because it infringes on a Chinese company's design patent. Of course, Apple is appealing the ruling and—wait...there's an intellectual property bureau in China?

China says iPhone 6 copies local company's patented phone designChina says iPhone 6 copies local company's patented phone design

Shenzhen Baili holds a patent in China for its 100C smartphone that looks strikingly similar to Apple's iPhone 6. Or, from China's perspective, Apple's iPhone 6 looks strikingly similar to Shenzhen Baili's patented 100C smartphone design.

Apple has already been granted a stay in the order, according to the Wall Street Journal, and is appealing the ruling. That means iPhone sales will carry on as usual, although had the sales ban continued it likely wouldn't have had much of an impact on Apple because local retailers have been pushing the newer iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus models with customers.

Interestingly, the complaint didn't name the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus, both of which look exactly like the 6 and 6 Plus models. For Apple, the issue is more of an inconvenience because of the bureaucratic headaches that go along with contesting the sales ban.

The IP Bureau's order underscores the hurdles foreign companies face in China. The country favors its own businesses, resists outsider companies, and often tries to impose regulations that make it difficult for non-local companies to compete.

This isn't the first time Apple has been the target of scrutiny in China. Last year Apple and several other tech companies faced a sales ban to government agencies in the country after Chinese officials said foreign-owned companies could include technology in their products to allow spying. China also claimed the iPhone posed a national security threat because Apple was using their smartphone to track the country's officials and report back to the U.S. government.

China shut down the movies section on the iTunes Store along with the iBookstore  earlier this year possibly as a censorship move or to help push consumers into using in-country download and streaming services, too.

Despite the ongoing headaches, Apple CEO Tim Cook says his company has a good relationship with China's government. Since Apple seems to always find a way to resolve whatever issue it's facing in the country, it's likely that relationship is good enough.

The iPhone 6 and 6 Plus sales ban looks like an administrative issue for Apple and not a retail problem. The company can continue to sell all of its smartphones in China while the infringement appeal works through the legal system, and consumers seem happy to buy them. The real shocker in this case, considering how many Chinese companies blatantly copy Apple's product designs, is that the country has an Intellectual Property Bureau.