App Law in China

We recently flagged the regulatory risks faced by app developers in Canada and the US. China also presents certain unique challenges for app developers (and Apple itself), as shown by these examples:

  • The Encyclopedia of China Publishing House successfully sued Apple Inc for copyright infringement arising out of a Chinese encyclopedia app for iPhone and iPad. A court in Beijing reportedly ordered Apple to pay $80,250 in compensation to the publisher, whose work was allegedly copied by the app developer;
  • Apple has also reportedly faced patent infringement allegations in China over its FaceTime app. A Taiwanese inventor claims that the app violates his patent rights in an earlier invention.
  • Siri is not exactly an app, but recent complaints about Siri in China illustrate the public relations risks associated with apps in China. Concerns have been raised about Siri providing links to “prostitution places”…. as though a person couldn’t search and find offensive materials on a iPhone or iPad without the aid of Siri. Technology permits people to access all sorts of unsavoury sites online, but these complaints suggest that Siri should engage in some self-censorship to avoid offending users who ask it to search for offensive material.
  • This recent article highlights the trade-mark issues for Windows 8 app developers whose popular Windows 7 app names are being reserved by others in China, forcing them to negotiate with the squatters or go through the lengthy process of obtaining registered trade-mark rights in China. Microsoft is reportedly working on a policy to address app name disputes.

The usual array of issues faces app developers in China - including potential trade-mark, copyright and patent disputes. App developers are advised to get advice if their apps are to be directed to the Chinese market.

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