Chinese iPad Trademark Battle Hits US Court
The Silicon Valley giant is accused of trademark infringement and dirty tactics
A technology company which claims ownership of the iPad trademark in China is attempting to have the import and export of the devices banned, this time through a court in the US.
Proview Electronics has taken the legal fight to Apple’s home ground in California, following a series of court cases in China.
We shall fight on the beaches of California
Proview Electronics, a Taiwanese flatscreen manufacturer based on the Chinese mainland in Shenzhen, bought the rights to the IPAD brand name in several countries as early as 2000. The company said it later sold some international rights to Apple, but claims it still owns the iPad name in China. It is now trying to stop the sales of the tablet, asking for a reported 10 billion yuan (£1 billion) in compensation for trademark infringement.
Any kind of ban in China would obviously be a major headache for Apple, since that is where most of the iPads are manufactured. If Proview is successful, it would effectively stop worldwide distribution of the tablet, and delay the launch of the iPad 3.
According to the Washington Post, Proview developed what it said was an “iFamily” range of products, including iTV, iWeb and iPAD. It launched its iPAD in 2000, but unlike Apple’s 2010 tablet computer, Proview’s earlier version failed to hit the market sweet spot that might have made it a hit.
The story so far
Apple bought the global IPAD trademark from Proview for measly £35,000 in 2006. But when it tried to register the name in China, the move was denied by the Chinese trademark office, which claimed the trademark already had an owner. Apple says Proview sold the mainland Chinese rights to the iPad trademark in a later 2009 deal.
In the lawsuit, Proview accuses Apple of creating a special purpose entity – IP Application Development Ltd, or IPAD – to buy the iPad name from it, concealing Apple’s role in the matter, reports Reuters. In its filing, Proview alleged lawyers for IPAD repeatedly said it would not be competing with the Chinese firm, and refused to say why they needed the trademark.
Proview has threatened to sell the trademark to a third party in 2010, but this move was stopped by Apple winning a preliminary injunction. The Chinese company had then managed to enforce a sales ban in the Hebei and Henan provinces, pulling the tablets from stores. Earlier this week it had lost its appeal to ban sales of the tablet in the city of Shanghai.
The next phase of the ongoing battle will be an Apple appeal on 29 February in the Guangdong province High Court, where Apple failed to claim the iPad brand last December.
Proview International Holdings was once one of the world’s leading makers of computer monitors, with sales in 50 countries and more than 7,000 employees in factories in Taiwan and China. It was manufacturing cathode-ray tube displays, and did not take the transition to LCD very well. The company is now deep in the red, and faces its shares being removed from the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, unless it manages to come up with a lot of money, fast.
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