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Apple’s ‘Vision Pro’ likely to face trademark noise in China

Apple Vision Pro, the highly anticipated US$3,499 augmented reality (AR) headset freshly unveiled by the US tech giant, could face trademark issues in China where the name was registered by Huawei Technologies Co two years ago.

The Shenzhen-based smartphone and telecommunication gear maker trademarked “Vision Pro” in 2021, covering a wide range of goods and service categories including virtual reality (VR) headsets and wearable video displays, according to records at the Trademark Office of China National Intellectual Property Administration (CNIPA).

Huawei filed its application in 2019, and was granted the exclusive rights to “Vision Pro” two years later for the duration of a decade through November 27, 2031, according to information on the CNIPA database.

This could prove a thorny issue for Apple in China after last week’s unveiling of Apple Vision Pro, which is expected to hit the market next year, beginning in the US before rolling out to other markets.

Apple Vision Pro is the company’s first major new product in a decade and allows users to experience digital content, such as games and 3D videos, overlaid onto any physical space. It is expected to mark “the beginning of a new era for computing”, according to CEO Tim Cook.

“Huawei has the right to take legal action against Apple for its offer to sell Apple Vision Pro,” said You Yunting, a senior partner at Shanghai Debund Law Firm.

From a legal point of view, Apple is promoting the product to the global market, including China, which could constitute trademark infringement based on China’s intellectual property laws and previous court rulings, said You.

You added that Huawei may not choose to take action at the moment though, as the company – which is at the centre of US-China tech tensions – may want to keep a low profile, or it could seek compensation after the product officially hits the market.

Huawei, once a major smartphone rival to Apple before the US imposed sanctions that cut off its advanced chip supplies, has launched a couple of consumer gadgets under the product name of “Vision”, including Huawei Vision Glass last December, as well as a range of smart TV screens under the Vision series.

The two companies previously engaged in a trademark battle when Apple lost a legal attempt to block Huawei’s use of the “MatePod” name in 2021, after the Cupertino, California-based company argued that the name was too similar to its own trademarks for the iPod, EarPods and AirPods.

You said in the case of Apple Vision Pro, the company may follow a previous case when it trademarked “Apple Watch” after Swiss watchmaker Swatch contested and blocked its use of “iWatch” in the UK in 2016.

Apple may have a good chance to simply trademark “Apple Vision” in China, since “Apple” is a highly recognisable name in the tech world while the word “Vision” is not distinctive, according to You.

“It is not uncommon to find a trademark risk after the product is released; there are possibilities for clashes on trademarks, especially for a large company like Apple with products launched globally,” You said. South China Morning Post

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