Having won a billion big ones from Korean consumer electronics company Samsung, Apple could soon be facing yet another legal dust-up as a relatively unknown Chinese manufacturer’s iPhone 5 knock off has reportedly been patented before Apple has even launched the iPhone 5.
Called The Goophone I5 (there’s no accounting for Chinese marketing weirdness), it was launched in late August, and if the photos are to be believed, it looks to be an almost exact copy of leaked photos of the iPhone 5. It may be that staffers at Samsung’s head office are having a not-so quiet giggle at the irony of the situation, but it’d be fair to assume that Apple probably isn’t seeing the humour. Because the Goophone has already been patented in China, it’s not a huge reach to assume that its maker could potentially sue Apple, or worse still, ask that iPhone 5 sales are blocked in China.
While it’s pretty tricky to tell how a phone given a such weird brand that is to be only launched in China compares to a phone Apple has yet to launch, there are superficially a lot of similarities. If the photos are to be believed, it appears that the only real difference design-wise is the Goophone’s 3.5-inch display, as opposed to the 4-inch display most are expecting on the iPhone 5. As the Goophone is probably running a customised version of Android, the differences between the two devices may become more apparent once the Goophone I5 and iPhone 5 are powered up.
Goophone may pull off an embarrassing piece of legal kung-fu that’ll doubtlessly raise their profile in the Chinese market, but the likelihood of them winning any legal bun-fights beyond China is low given the fact that Goophone has a long history of creating smartphone knock-offs that include a Samsung Galaxy S3 look-alike, the HTC ONE S and an iPhone 4.
Legal entanglements in China are nothing new for Apple, which recently settled a protracted trademark dispute over the iPad brand with a financially troubled electronics maker, Proview. Another Chinese company, Zhizhen Network Technology, also says Siri infringes on its patented “instant messaging chat bot system.” And Apple is also being sued over the name Snow Leopard. PAT PILCHER