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Monday, June 11, 2012

Insights and Headaches for Apple: The iPncne in China

As I mentioned before, unauthorized Apple stores are common in many regions of China. At the moment it appears that Apple will only respond to "fake Apple Stores" that take extreme measures to imitate a genuine Apple Store. A related area of concern for companies such as Apple is protecting not how their trademarks are used in stores but on products being sold.

I previously shared an example of a Chinese mobile phone that appeared to inappropriately use some of Apple's trademarks. I will call it the "Think Different Phone". It certainly is not alone in China. For another example, here is a phone I saw for sale in Yinchuan, Ningxia:

iPncne (or fake iPhone) in Yinchuan, China

It would be hard to believe that the resemblance of the apple logo and the iPncne name to Apple's trademarks is accidental. In the post about the Think Different Phone I discussed how despite their possible trademark infringements such phones can provide insights about features possibly desired in the local market. As an example, similar to the Think Different Phone the iPncne has a dedicated button for QQ -- a popular social networking service in China:

iPncne (or fake iPhone) in Yinchuan, China

But what I believe can be an even more important feature is found inside the phone:

battery compartment and SIM card holder for iPncne (or fake iPhone) in Yinchuan, China

The capability of this iPncne to hold dual SIM cards would matter to many Chinese mobile phone users. For an example of why, see my post from last year "Mobile Phones in China: Local Rates, Fashion, and Fakes".

Even for the many Chinese-designed phones not noticeably violating any trademarks, "localizations" such as the above can indicate features desired not only in China but elsewhere as well. But regardless of any insights the iPncne may provide, Apple is probably still concerned about protecting its trademarks. Even if the apple logo and iPncne name do not cross the line for Apple, I think there is something on the back of the phone that would be hard for them to accept:

back of iPncne (or fake iPhone) in Yinchuan, China

In small print below the iPncne name is written:
Designed by Apple in California Assembled in China
At least the second half of the line seems true. I have not contacted Apple for comment about the first half. I suspect their private comments would be much more interesting.

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