Apple Inc., makers of the widely-popular iPhone line of mobile devices as well as other “i” named electronics, was successful on Tuesday in preventing Xiaomi Inc., a Chinese smartphone maker, from registering its tablet computer that goes by the name “Mi Pad,” as an European Union (EU) trademark because the name was, according to Apple, too similar to their trademarked “iPad.”
The Mi Pad, which originally debuted in 2014, is described as a cheap-ish Android tablet with the same screen size and resolution as the iPad Mini, along with the same type of plastic materials as those used for Apple’s older and more inexpensive iPhones.
Xiaomi filed an application in 2014 with the EU Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) to register their “Mi Pad” as an EU trademark. Apple then subsequently lodged a complaint to cancel the trademark, which the EUIPO upheld in 2016, on the grounds that consumers would think that the “Mi Pad” was a variation on Apple’s “iPad” trademark, and would therefore be confused by the similar names.
The EU’s second-highest court, called the General Court, ruled that “Mi Pad” should not be registered as a trademark because consumers are likely to be confused by the similarity of the two names. Xiaomi’s “Mi Pad” and Apple’s “iPad” are both tablet-based computers. In a statement given, the General Court explained that “[t]he dissimilarity between the two signs at issue, resulting from the presence of the additional letter ‘M’ at the beginning of “Mi Pad”, is not sufficient to offset the high degree of visual and phonetic similarity between the two signs . . . .”
The court agreed with the EUIPO’s decision, holding that English-speaking consumers were likely to interpret the prefix “Mi” as meaning “my,” and would therefore pronounce the “i” of “Mi Pad” the same way you would pronounce the “i” in “iPad.”
Xiaomi is arguably one of Apple’s biggest rivals overseas, along with other fast-growing Chinese manufacturers including Oppo, Vivo and Huawei. Xiaomi has competed with Apple in multiple areas of the mobile device arena, including tablets, smartphones, wearables smart devices, and even features a type of laptop called the “Mi Notebook Air,” which is arguably a direct competitor of the MacBook Air.
Xiaomi still has the option of appealing the ruling against their trademark at the EU’s highest court, which is the Court of Justice of the European Union.