Shenzhen Baili, the Chinese company that last week managed to win a Beijing patent office ruling that the iPhone 6 copied its own Baili 100C smartphone, is effectively defunct, reports the WSJ.

[Parent company] Digione had collapsed, brought down by buggy products, mismanagement and fierce competition, according to former employees and investors. Digione has been absent from China’s mobile-phone market for at least a year and Baidu has accused it of squandering its investment.

When the WSJ attempted to track down the company behind the alleged patent, it found no signs that it was still operating …

Phone calls to the company, Shenzhen Baili Marketing Services, ring unanswered. Its websites have been deleted. Visits to its three registered addresses found no company offices.

The parent company’s own annual reports show it to be insolvent. However, the company’s lawyer insists that the business still exists – and that it may extend the scope of its claim against Apple.

Baili, its unit that registered the phone patents, will continue to battle Apple in court, said Digione lawyer Andy Yang, of Beijing Wis & Weals. “Shenzhen Baili is still operational in its necessary functions,” he said […]

Baili may consider expanding its suit to the iPhone 6S and iPhone 6S Plus, said Mr. Yang. “The issue here is not whether Digione makes phones anymore, but whether the iPhone 6 infringes on this patent,” he said.

The company first filed the patent infringement claim shortly after the launch of the iPhone 6, the design patent extremely general in its nature.

In March 2014, Baili was granted a patent from Chinese regulators for a smartphone design that had curved edges and a rear camera in the left-hand corner. Leaked images of Apple’s upcoming iPhone 6 floating online at the time showed a similar design — curved edges instead of the straight ones of previous iPhone models. There were also some similarities in button placement.

Just months after the launch of the iPhone 6 in September 2014, Digione went to the Intellectual Property Office and accused Apple of patent infringement.

Former employees said that the claim against Apple was just a PR stunt, intended to generate publicity for the company’s own phones.

The case is expected to take a long time to be resolved by the courts, and Apple is able to continue to selling its phones locally in the meantime.

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Ben Lovejoy

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