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Apple sued in India over iPhone trademarkReuters

An India-based company is challenging Apple's iconic 'iPhone' brand name in the country, threatening the US company's expansion plan in one of the largest markets for smartphones.

Erode-based mobile phone manufacturer, iVoice Enterprises, had earlier filed a lawsuit with the Intellectual Property Appellate Board (IPAB) of India, asking to remove or rectify Apple's 'iPhone' trademark, from the Trademark Registry in India. The company claims it had plans to make affordable smartphones under the 'iFon' brandname.

After Apple filed its counter statement, the company intensified its claims demanding a ban on the use of all Apple's registered or pending 'iPhone' trademarks in India. Now, the company says it is expanding its lawsuit against Apple's pending trademark applications including one for 'iPhone with Apple Logo.'

"Apple's original opposition to 'iFon' trademark caused insurmountable challenges and irrevocable losses in ramping our business during 2008/2009. Given the rejuvenated Indian economy, we're on our way to revamp our business model and one key metric to regain investor confidence is to secure unencumbered rights to our 'iFon' intellectual property in India," iVoice managing director, VP Balaji, said in a statement.

"As of February 2015, we've challenged all of Apple's registered/pending "iPhone" trademarks before IPAB and TMR in India."

"We've filed one more rectification/cancellation petition against Apple's registered Trademark number 1634050 "iPhone with Apple Logo" to cement and consolidate our IPR battle. With this final petition, we've challenged Apple's attempt for potential proprietary claim for "iPhone" in India and such would convey a strong message to Apple that we're very serious in protecting our intellectual property rights," said iVoice Operations Director, Venkateshwaran Vaiyapuri.

Speaking to IB Times UK, Vaiyapuri said his company was selling mobile phones starting in 2006, and it was the first Indian mobile phone brand to start operations in India, well ahead of Micromax, Lava, Carbon and Spice. When iVoice Enterprises was selling phones, Apple did not even dream of making phones, he claimed. The first generation iPhone was released in June 2007 and it came to India in 2009.

"The whole story is we were wronged; even before we could stand on our legs, Apple chopped our legs," he said.

The IPAB is expected to conduct a hearing to review relevant merits and make a ruling in the coming months on the case, the company said.

IB Times UK contacted Apple India for a comment, and is awaiting for a response as of now.