September 6, 2012

iPhone Knock-off Maker Threatens To Sue Apple Over iPhone 5 Design

Here’s something entirely ridiculous, interesting and all points in between.

One Chinese manufacturer is playing a coy little game of cat and mouse with the World’s Most Valuable Company, releasing their own version of the iPhone 5 days before Apple gets a chance to do it themselves.

While we’ll never fully know until September 12th, it appears as if this year’s rumor cycle has been incredibly accurate in picking out the new design of the next iPhone. It’s this leaky supply chain which has given the makers of the GooPhone i5 the inspiration to build this iPhone knock-off. Though this false iPhone doesn’t feature the same 4-ish-inch screen (or iOS) it’s said to be an incredibly accurate representation of the design rumors we’ve seen thus far. Internally, however, this thing is said to be stocked with subpar equipment, including Android 4.1.

So, a Chinese company has already released an iPhone knock-off. What’s the big deal? Other companies have already created physical mock-ups based on the leaked parts, and case manufacturers are already selling product ahead of the device which, for all we know, could never exist.

The kicker with the GooPhone i5 comes down to Chinese patent law.

The manufacturers of this phone say they’ll sue Apple if they release a similar phone and try to sell it in China.

I’m no expert in Chinese patent law, but I have to imagine taunting one of the world’s largest companies takes some amazing testicular fortitude.

According to Cult of Mac, GooPhone are claiming that the fact this phone looks identical to leaked images of the upcoming iPhone 5 is purely coincidental, and because they’ve released it first in China, they have the right to sue Apple if they sell a similar phone in the East.

This isn’t necessarily a new game for GooPhone, as the company has previously made knock-offs of the HTC One S, Samsung S III and even iPhone 4.

“It would be unfortunate if a country’s patent system were designed to allow this type of behavior,” said Robin Feldman, a professor of law at UC Hastings, speaking to

“If this behavior had occurred in the United States, Apple would have an action for misappropriation of trade secrets.”
Though they’ve been focusing much of their attention on China as an area of significant growth, Apple has already shown some signs of struggling when it comes to Chinese patent law.

In what appeared to be a cut and dry situation, Apple eventually had to settle their case with Chinese display maker Proview Technologies in order to bring their new iPad to China. Though it appeared as if Apple had clear claims to the iPad trademark in China, Proview argued the tablet maker had used unfair practices to acquire the trademark and didn’t have the right to it in China. Apple finally settled with the bankrupt company, paying out $60 million to bring the case to a close.

With the next iPhone scheduled to be unveiled on September 12th, we’ll see if this little knock-off company could end up bringing Apple to its knees.

Image Credit: tankist276 / Shutterstock

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