Bad news. Apple has lost a lawsuit against Chinese company Proview Technology over the iPad trademark, and Apple might have to market its best-selling tablet computer under a different name in China, or cough up $1.6 billion.
This might be the first time you’re hearing of Proview Technology. Well, Proview Technology in Shenzhen is a subsidiary to Hong Kong Proview International Holdings Limited. Proview has a location in Taipei which was the branch that registered the iPad name in numerous countries and regions back in 2000. Proview was once a flat-panel display producer, but is currently on the verge of bankruptcy due to the global financial crisis. The company is seeking 10 billion yuan (1.6 billion US dollars) in compensation for Apple infringing their trademark.
The War Between Apple and Proview
Here’s the story. Proview registered the ‘iPad’ trademark in a number of countries and region including Chinese mainland as early as 2000, 10 years before Apple launched its iPad tablet.
Proview was originally planning to introduce electronics such as computer, computer accessories, LCD display, TV set, radio, digital camera, webcam, and security equipment under the brand “IPAD”. However, the company unsuccessfully tried to market the brand IPAD.
In 2006, Proview agreed to sell the global iPad trademark to US-based IP Application Development for £35,000 ($55,104), at which time Proview didn’t know had connections to Apple. Here’s the “loophole”, the Chinese trademarks, filed as far back as 2000, were apparently not included in that agreement. This means that Proview could still use the trademark rights in China.
In 2009, Apple purchased the European rights to the iPad name from Proview’s global parent for about $55,000 and then filed an infringement lawsuit against Proview’s Shenzhen subsidiary when Apple found out Proview is still the owner of the trademark in China. Apple was claiming the European deal also included China. However, Proview did not surrender, the company even “threatened” to sue Apple over trademark infringement, valuing the trademark at $800 million. Apple argued that its $55,000 purchase of the European trademark from Proview included the Chinese rights. So, Proview and Apple have been duking it out legally ever since.
Apple Losing The War Today
Things go nasty recently. A Chinese patent court in Shenzhen rejected Apple’s claim that Proview was infringing its iPad trademark with a product of its own. So, Apple’s lawsuit against Proview was denied, and Proview’s chairman is now promising to sue Apple for damages in both the US and China. Here’s what Proview chairman Yang Rongshan had this to say about the case:
“It is arrogant of Apple to just ignore our rights and go ahead selling the iPad in this market, and we will oppose that,” Mr Yang said. “Besides that, we are in big financial trouble and the trademarks are a valuable asset that could help us sort out part of that trouble.”
Yeah, Proview is saddled with more than 400-million yuan ($64-million) in debt, and today’s ruling shows that China’s legal system apparently does not agree with Apple, so Proview followed up their victory by suing Apple for 10-billion yuan ($1.6 billion) for violating the trademark in China. What’s more, Proview Technology has targeted Apple resellers in Shenzhen and Huizhou, demanding an immediate halt to the selling of the iPad. If successful the company plans to expand its quest for an iPad ban to all regions in China. Oh man, China Apple fans will inevitably be disappointed by this…
Source: Financial Post
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