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Huawei hits a stumbling block in HarmonyOS roll-out after Chinese court rejects trademark appeal

South China Morning Post logo South China Morning Post 13/05/2021 Celia Chen celia.chen@scmp.com
a sign on the side of a building: Banners with the Huawei logo are seen outside the venue where the telecoms giant unveiled its new HarmonyOS operating system in Dongguan, China, on August 9, 2019. Photo: AFP Banners with the Huawei logo are seen outside the venue where the telecoms giant unveiled its new HarmonyOS operating system in Dongguan, China, on August 9, 2019. Photo: AFP

After millions of dollars spent and almost a decade in development, Huawei Technologies Co may have to find a new Chinese name for its mobile device operating system less than a week before a showcase event.

On Wednesday, the Beijing Intellectual Property Court rejected Huawei's lawsuit against the China National Intellectual Property Administration (CNIPA) for rejecting its trademark application for HongmengOS, the Chinese name for its mobile operating system known globally as HarmonyOS.

Huawei applied in May 2019 to the CNIPA for the HongmengOS text trademark. However, the application was rejected over concerns that it could cause confusion among consumers, given that two other companies - a Beijing-based cosmetics firm and a Hebei-based software company - had already registered the trademark as early as 2010.

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a close up of a clock: Richard Yu, head of Huawei's consumer business group, unveils the company's new HarmonyOS operating system at the Huawei Developer Conference in Dongguan, Guangdong province, China, on August 9, 2019. Photo: Reuters © Provided by South China Morning Post Richard Yu, head of Huawei's consumer business group, unveils the company's new HarmonyOS operating system at the Huawei Developer Conference in Dongguan, Guangdong province, China, on August 9, 2019. Photo: Reuters

In its filings to the court, Huawei argued that the HongmengOS branding has the support of the country and enjoys "unshakeable popularity". It also said that the name is closely associated with Huawei, while the registered trademarks owned by other companies are not only in disuse, but also look visually different.

The court did not accept the argument. It said that the evidence provided by Huawei was insufficient to prove that the company has established a unique connection with the Hongmeng name.

Huawei did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The rejection creates another obstacle for Huawei, which is developing its own operating system as an alternative to Google's Android amid crippling US sanctions.

The Shenzhen-based telecoms giant has invested tens of millions of dollars to develop HarmonyOS, which was unveiled in August 2019, about three months after the US announced restrictions that bar the company from shipping new products with Google apps and services preinstalled.

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The operating system is "neither a copy of Android nor (Apple's) iOS", according to Huawei's head of software Wang Chenglu, who said HarmonyOS is designed to link up all of the company's Internet of Things (IoT) devices.

Huawei's first product running on HarmonyOS was a smart TV released under its former budget brand Honor in 2019.

The second generation of HarmonyOS will be available on Huawei's smartphones, smart speakers and earphones by 2021, said the company's consumer business chief executive Richard Yu Chengdong last September, with more devices such as virtual reality glasses added to the ecosystem after 2022.

Huawei has said it plans to deploy HarmonyOS on 400 million devices this year.

The company is set to hold a partners summit for the operating system in Shanghai next week.

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This article originally appeared on the South China Morning Post (www.scmp.com), the leading news media reporting on China and Asia.

Copyright (c) 2021. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.

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