Fighting Proview in Shanghai Showdown, Apple highlights iPad’s benefits to China’s economy

An important update as a Shanghai court hearing this morning confronted Shenzhen, China-based LCD display maker Proview and Apple of California, the maker of the widely popular iPad tablet. The high-profile hearing drew more than a hundred reporters. As you know, Proview is dreaming of a multi-billion dollar settlement for rights to the iPad name in China where Apple pushes aggressively with claims it acquired the iPad trademark in 2009 from Proview’s Taiwanese affiliate for about $55,000. Associated Press this morning described a heated exchange between cash-strapped Proview, which recently filed for bankruptcy, and the Silicon Valley giant. At stake: A countrywide import and export ban on the iPad that enjoys a 76 percent share in China.

If enforced, the ban could easily disrupt worldwide iPad availability, because the world’s largest contract manufacturer Foxconn at its plants in the Chinese province of Shenzhen manufactures the tablet. Worse, it could disrupt a future iPad 3 launch allegedly scheduled for March 7 unveiling. So yeah, it is all about money.

Proview representatives presented as court evidence the company’s 2000 iMac-lookalike named IPAD (pictured on the right). The lawyers came down with all guns blazing on Apple, and said: “Apple has no right to sell iPads under that name.” The company’s CEO told reporters “both sides have willingness to negotiate,” and asserted, “both sides will submit their plans before the talks,” because an out-of-court settlement “is quite possible.”

To this, Apple responded:

They have no market, no sales, no customers. They have nothing. The iPad is so popular that it is in short supply. We have to consider the public good.

Reuters followed up with another quote attributed to Apple’s legal team:

Apple has huge sales in China. Its fans line up to buy Apple products. The ban, if executed, would not only hurt Apple sales but it would also hurt China’s national interest.

Explaining Proview has not sold or marketed its IPAD computer system in years while Apple only began selling the iPad tablet in 2010, the company said the fact essentially invalidates Proview’s trademark. Lawyers for Proview cried foul, and claimed any public good achieved through the creation of iPad manufacturing jobs in China and tax revenues should not be confused with trademark infringement:

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Proview tries to block iPads from coming in or going out of China

Not content with officials yesterday confiscating iPads in Shijiazhuang over an ongoing litigation on the iPad moniker, Taiwanese company Proview Electronics is now looking to put a ban on both iPad imports and exports, according to Reuters. The company is already petitioning Chinese customs to stop shipments of iPads. Proview sued Apple last year over its “I-PAD” trademark and could seek up to $1.5 billion for the name from the Cupertino, Calif.-headquartered gadget powerhouse.

Apple is in an increasingly difficult place here. Considering every iPad is built in China (until Brazil plants go online), a full-blown export ban could disrupt the iPad business on a global scale. Proview’s legal position stems from Chinese laws that seek to prevent the sale of counterfeit goods in the country. The news gathering organization confirmed the development this morning:

A Chinese tech firm claiming to own the “iPad” trademark plans to seek a ban on shipments of Apple Inc’s computer tablets into and out of China, a lawyer for the company, Proview Technology (Shenzhen), said on Tuesday.

Proview also asked the country’s Administration Industry and Commerce to put in effect iPad confiscations in as much as 30 cities. Apple’s position in this dispute remains unchanged as a spokesperson re-iterated the official line:

We bought Proview’s worldwide rights to the iPad trademark in 10 different countries several years ago. Proview refuses to honor their agreement with Apple in China and a Hong Kong court has sided with Apple in this matter.

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Apple gets a break as EU antitrust watchdog launches full-blown probe into Samsung over essential 3G patents

European Union regulators today announced the launch of a formal investigation of Samsung over mobile patents to determine whether the South Korean conglomerate breached EU antitrust rules in its legal dealings with competitors. The investigation is focused on so-called FRAND patents, a common rule that stipulates a patent applying to the standard must be adopted on “fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory terms” (FRAND). According to the press release, EU regulators want to figure out whether Samsung “used certain of its standard essential patent rights to distort competition in European mobile device markets, in breach of EU antitrust rules.”

The Commission reminds that Samsung a decade ago promised to let rivals license its mobile patents under FRAND terms. The full-blown investigation comes in the light of the lawsuits Samsung filed against Apple at courts in Germany, France, the Netherlands and other countries around the world, asserting copyright infringement related to patents essential to wireless telecommunications standards.

The case is “a matter of priority,” the document reads. Patent blogger explained, “The European Commission can’t wait until Samsung finally wins a ruling based on such a patent and enforces it, potentially causing irreparable harm.” The full text of the European Commission Antitrust Commission announcement can be found below.

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Steve Jobs figurine legal in most states, begins to hit eBay

We reported yesterday that Apple was requesting Chinese manufacturer In Icon to cease production of what is probably the most realistic Steve Jobs figurine to date. While we already knew CEO Tandy Cheung’s stance on Apple having the copyright to Steve’s likeness, a new report from Paid Content claimed the doll is in fact legal in most states and “Apple’s legal claim is largely bogus.”

The report explained that people do own the rights to their likeness, but most American states do not recognize these rights after death. In fact, according to Paid Content, only a dozen states currently recognize “personality rights” after death.

What this means is that Apple’s warning about the doll is an empty threat in most places. It may not even be able to stop others from using the name Steve Jobs as, surprisingly, the term does not appear on the company’s long list of registered trademarks.

In light of that news, several of the figurines appear to have made their way to different eBay stores globally. One —on the United States eBay store— is listed with a ‘Buy It Now’ price of US $138.88 and ships straight from Hong Kong. The figurines have also landed on the Australian eBay here. You can still preorder from In Icons’ official website for $109.99 with shipping expected to start in February. However, the website noted it is a ‘first-come, first-served’ policy with refunds being issued when initial limited stock runs out.

Paid Content cited the following list of states where the doll could potentially run into an issue, according to a recent paper on Dignitarian Posthumous Personality Rights:

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Updated: Samsung Responds… Apple stops Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 distribution in European Union

Update: Samsung has issued the following statement (via TNW) addressing the court’s decision to grant Apple the preliminary injunction:

Samsung is disappointed with the court’s decision and we intend to act immediately to defend our intellectual property rights through the ongoing legal proceedings in Germany and will continue to actively defend these rights throughout the world.

The request for injunction was filed with no notice to Samsung, and the order was issued without any hearing or presentation of evidence from Samsung.

We will take all necessary measures to ensure Samsung’s innovative mobile communications devices are available to customers in Europe and around the world.

This decision by the court in Germany in no way influences other legal proceedings filed with the courts in Europe and elsewhere.

Reports are coming in that Apple has been granted a preliminary injunction for the entire European Union (excluding Netherlands) that will halt distribution of Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 10.1. This comes on the heels of a postponed launch of the device in Australia due to a lawsuit with Apple.

The decision by the Regional Court of Dusseldorf in Germany to block sales of the device comes after a judge sided with Apple on claims that Galaxy Tab copied key design components related to the iPad 2. While Samsung can appeal the court’s decision sometime in the next month, the Telegraph’s Shane Richmond is quick to point out it would be heard by the same judge. Apple is also said to have a separate lawsuit filed in the Netherlands as well.

Samsung had this to say in a recent statement about their legal disputes with Apple:

“Samsung believes that there is no legal basis for this assertion. We will continue to serve our customers and distributors and the sale of Samsung products will be continued.”

And Apple has made their stance on the situation clear…

“It’s no coincidence that Samsung’s latest products look a lot like the iPhone and iPad, from the shape of the hardware to the user interface and even the packaging. This kind of blatant copying is wrong, and we need to protect Apple’s intellectual property when companies steal our ideas.”

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Apple could brand own Facebook-killer with fruity logos used by the Beatles

 

In a strange turn of fate, California-based Apple is moving to trademark the famed fruity logos once used by the Beatles, following a 23-year legal dispute between the two companies. Furthermore, Apple makes specific mention of a social network in the fourteen international classifications that cover possible uses for the two logos. How can Apple, Inc. claim ownership of the Beatles’ logos in the first place, you ask.

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