Adding another layer of confusion to Apple's iPhone entry to China, a Chinese company is claiming that it owns the trademark rights for the iPhone smartphone.

According to Wang Hao, general manager for Beijing-based BSFD Intellectual Property Agency Limited, Apple's iPhone can not enter the Chinese market, because Hanwang Technology previously registered the "i-phone" trademark, and if Apple continues to use the iPhone brand in China, it will have to assume infringement liability.

The website of the Trademark Office of the State Administration for Industry and Commerce of China shows that Apple submitted an application for the registration of the iPhone trademark on October 28, 2002 and the trademark was approved with a registration number of 3339849 on November 21, 2003. However, the company only applied to use the trademark for computer software and computer hardware, and phones and mobile phones were not included.

On May 20, 2004, Hanwang Technology applied to register the i-phone trademark for mobile phones and video phones. The application was approved with a registration number of 4073735 and the exclusive rights to the trademark were effective in October 2006.

Apple's iPhone is similar with the i-phone trademark of Hanwang Technology. Once Hanwang Technology owned the i-phone trademark, Apple's iPhone would become a infringing product in China. Apple reportedly raised an objection about the i-phone trademark on September 28, 2006, which was during the three-month objection period in accordance to the law, but was rejected by the trademark committee.

If Apple's iPhone wants to enter the Chinese market, it has to change its name or seek the permission of Hanwang Technology, said Wang.

Both China Telecom and China Unicom have been rumored over recent months to be in talks with Apple over bringing that iPhone 3G into the country. As of now, there is no decision on which telecom company will work with Apple and when Apple will start legally selling its phones in the Middle Kingdom.

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