Beijing’s Intellectual Property Office has ruled against Apple in a patent dispute brought by a Chinese handset maker.
The iPhone 6 and 6S models are similar to Shenzhen Baili’s 100C phone, the authority ruled.
In theory, this could lead to iPhone sales being halted in Beijing but sales may be continued if Apple launches an appeal.
The BBC has contacted Apple for comment.
The iPhone currently remains on sale in Beijing and around China, reports the Tech in Asia website.
Analyst Ben Wood, from CCS Insight, told the BBC he was confident that Apple would resolve the situation.
“Large companies will always be reluctant to settle if they feel they don’t have a case to answer, but the Chinese market is so strategic to Apple that if they have to settle, they will,” he told the BBC.
“This is a constant challenge for all large tech firms.
“Typically these sorts of legal spats are a game of brinkmanship.”
Analysis: Celia Hatton, Asia Pacific Editor, BBC World Service
This is likely to anger Chinese consumers who love their iPhones.
Baili is not a well-known company – they’re not particularly popular.
China is Apple’s second-largest market, but the patent ruling just adds to the company’s problems: its iTunes Books and Movie apps were recently shut down by the authorities, and it just lost a lawsuit against a Chinese leather goods maker which stamps the name “IPHONE” on its luggage.
Earlier this month, senior US officials warned American companies felt increasingly unwelcome in China, while the European Business Council noted its members were encountering a “hostile environment” the country.