Apple has been dealt a blow by the Chinese authorities when Beijing’s intellectual property office ruled in favour of a local handset maker.

The ruling could, if the judgement is upheld, lead to the American technology giant being forced to stop selling iPhones in China.

Apple has been embroiled in a patent dispute with Shenzhen Baili which claimed that the iPhone 6 and 6s models infringed its own patent rights.

The Chinese company said Apple had infringed its own patent rights by producing a phone similar to its little known 100C device.

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Apple sought to downplay the ruling saying its phones remained on the Chinese market pending an appeal.

“IPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus as well as iPhone 6s, iPhone 6s Plus and iPhone SE models are all available for sale today in China,” Apple said in a statement.

“We appealed an administrative order from a regional patent tribunal in Beijing last month and as a result the order has been stayed pending review by the Beijing IP Court.”

Nevertheless, the ruling will be a blow to Apple which is alreadywrestling with declining iPhone sales, which account for two-thirds of the company’s revenue.

Apple logo at developers' conference
Apple logo at developers' conference CREDIT: GABRIELLE LURIE/AFP

In April Apple reported that its revenue had fallen for the first time in 13 years with sales of $50.6bn (£34.7 bn). The figures suggested that demand for the iPhone had plateaued. 

In March the company released a smaller cheaper phone in the hope of capturing sales in the developing world. It is also hoping to boost demand with the release of the iPhone 7 later in the year.