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If you had asked Apple boss Tim Cook on January 1 to rank the business risks that his firm faced this year, being sued for copying the smartphone design of a little known Chinese firm would have come way down his list. And yet that’s what happened last week when the Beijing Patent Office ruled that the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus had infringed earlier patents on a phone made by Shenzhen Baili. What makes the situation odder is that the founder of Baili’s parent firm Digione admits that it has already withdrawn from the smartphone market because of intense competition and financial difficulties

A lawyer representing Baili told the Wall Street Journal that the case centred on patents filed for the 100C mobile device in January 2014 in China, ahead of Apple’s own application. The lawyer said there were 27 features on the phones in question that “could confuse customers”. He argued that the first-comer should get the patent protection even if a design overlap was a coincidence.

Apple has appealed against the shock decision. Most critically for the US tech giant a sales injunction on selling the two iPhone models has been stayed, pending a review by the Beijing Intellectual Property Court.


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