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ChiPhone snagged by trademark snafu

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Apple's ongoing efforts to offer its über-popular iPhone to 1.3 billion Chinese has hit yet another snag - and this time the snagger is a Beijing-based graphics tablet manufacturer who happens to own the trademark on the term "i-phone."

Computerworld reported on Wednesday that Hanwang Technology, which sells its products under the name of Hanvon, secured the trademark to "i-phone" two years after Apple applied for a trademark on the term "iPhone."

Apple, however, submitted its trademark application to cover only computer hardware and software. Hanwang's trademark applies to mobile phones and video phones.

Oops. Someone in Cupertino has some 'splainin' to do.

A Hanwang spokeswoman told Computerworld that the company hasn't been contacted by Apple about the trademark problem. However, one commenter to that story doubts the spokeswoman's assertion, noting that Apple and Hawang are already chummy, with Cupertino having licensed Hanwang's character-recognition technology, which it demoed at the keynote of Apple's June Worldwide Developers Conference.

Apple has been in talks with China Unicom about providing the iPhone to the Middle Kingdom, with rumors swirling that availability might occur as early as this month. This trademark snafu, however, may throw a spanner into the works.

The iPhone is currently available in 85 countries from Argentina to Venezuela, with Equatorial Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, and Qatar "Coming Soon." It's also available unlocked in Hong Kong, according to China Wireless News

But the vast majority of Chinese currently must content themselves with knock-offs and rumors - at least until Apple and Hanwang come to an amicable agreement. ®

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