Apple could lose China iPad trademark, boasts Chinese govt official as groups enter mediation

Apple’s iPad trademark dispute with cash-strapped display company Proview has continued to drag on despite the Chinese company claiming it was in negotiations with Apple as recent as February. Today, several reports suggested Apple and Proview are now involved in court-moderated mediation with senior officials who are boasting Apple could lose the right to the iPad trademark in China. The mediation would be the first confirmation of settlement talks between the two companies. The Associated Press reports:

Apple Inc. risks losing the right to use the iPad trademark in China, a senior official suggested Tuesday, as a Chinese court was seeking to mediate a settlement between the technology giant and a local company challenging its use of the iPad name… Yan Xiaohong, deputy director of the National Copyright Administration, told reporters in Beijing that the government regards Shenzhen Proview Technology as the rightful owner of the trademark for the popular tablet computers

If Apple and Proview are unable to come to a settlement in the talks, Guangdong High Court in southern China will rule over the case in the months to come. According to Deputy Director of China’s State Administration for Industry and Commerce Fu Shuangjian (via The Wall Street Journal), Proview is still the legitimate owner of the iPad trademark in the country:

“Currently, Proview Shenzhen is still the legitimate registered owner of the IPAD trademark,” Mr. Fu said. But he indicated that officials are waiting for the Guangdong court’s final judgment, after which the industry and commerce sector “will deal with the case according to law.”

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Tim Cook meets with Vice Premier of China Li Keqiang, Proview claims “political public relations campaign”

We knew earlier this week that Tim Cook had “great meetings with Chinese officials” during his first trip to China as chief executive officer of Apple, but today a report from Bloomberg gives us new details about exactly who he met in China. According to the report, Cook met Chinese Vice Premier Li Keqiang, who could replace Wen Jiabao as Premier of the country’s government in 2013. Cook also met with Beijing Mayor Guo Jinlong a day before. Apple spokesperson Carolyn Wu told Bloomberg that Li and Cook had a “great meeting,” but she declined to talk about the specifics.

However, a report from The Wall Street Journal cited local media reports and claimed Cook and Li were discussing “intellectual-property issues and greater cooperation.”

According to representatives for the creditors of Shenzhen-based Proview, the company Apple is in a dispute with over the iPad trademark, Cook is on a “political public relations campaign” regarding the legal disputes. Li Su, president of Hejun Vanguard Group who represents Proview’s creditors, made the remarks. When Apple’s spokesperson Carolyn Wu asked about Li’s comment, she said the following:

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Apple’s court woes: AppleCare in Italy; Motorola, lawmakers grill iOS devs

As we reported earlier this month, Apple was set to appeal a $1.2 million fine imposed by Italian anti-trust authorities Autorità Garante della Concorrenza e del Mercato. The authorities argued Apple is misleading consumers by selling its one-year AppleCare warranties without informing customers of a two-year warranty mandatory by European Union law. Apple officially lost the appeal in court this week, which forced the company to pay the €900,00 fine and alter its AppleCare policies to properly inform consumers going forward. Apple can still appeal the decision, but consumer groups from 10 other countries are also requesting Apple change its policies—indicating this could soon be EU-wide. (via Repubblica.it)

Following the Path incident, a letter sent from lawmakers to Apple in February requested information on how the company collects personal data. The two congressional representatives behind the letter, Henry A. Waxman and G. K. Butterfield, sent letters to 34 app developers requesting similar information. One of the letters was sent to Tim Cook and Apple about the “Find My Friends” app. The letters are requesting that developers answer questions about their privacy policies and how they handle user data. In response to Path, Apple already confirmed, “Any app wishing to access contact data will require explicit user approval in a future software release.”

Earlier this month, we reported that U.S. Circuit Judge Richard A. Posner ruled in favor of Apple’s request to view documents related to the development of Android and the Google/Motorola acquisition. Apple claimed, “The Android/Motorola acquisition discovery is highly relevant to Apple’s claims and defenses.” According to Bloomberg, Apple told the courts last week that Motorola has yet to fulfill the original request, but Judge Posner denied Apple’s request this week and said, “Motorola’s objections are persuasive.” Two patent infringement-related trials between Apple and Motorola are set for June, and Posner warns Apple will have to “narrow its request to a manageable and particularized set of documents” for any future production of data requests.
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Apple: iPad has become brandnomer for tablets, letting Proview use the moniker would hurt and confuse consumers

The iPad maker is defending its moniker by insisting the device became synonymous with both the company name and the tablets. PCWorld quotes Apple’s legal representatives who argued at the Guangdong Province Higher People’s Court hearing this morning that Apple made the iPad name famous in the first place:

Among consumers across the world, the iPad trademark is already uniquely connected with Apple. When consumers see a tablet with an iPad trademark, they know it comes from Apple, and not from another company.

No ruling occurred during the six-hour long hearing, and the judges adjourned without setting a new court date. Should Apple lose the appeal, Proview’s request to put a sales ban on the iPad in 30 Chinese cities will go-ahead. Moreover, Apple would risk lawsuits seeking damages. Last week, the Shanghai Pudong New Area People’s Court rejected a preliminary iPad sales injunction until the Guangdong court made its ruling on the appeal.

Apple’s argument might actually backfire, because its legal standoff with Proview has blown up. Wikipedia claims, “A trademark owner takes a risk in engaging in such a corrective campaign because the campaign may serve as an admission that the trademark is generic.” I am not a lawyer, but it seems obvious Apple might be calling upon itself long-term damage with this testimony.

Arguing that the iPad became a generic term for tablets theoretically means anyone could use it as a descriptor. Besides, why do you think Proview brought this battle to the United States? The opposite argument is that Apple actually owns the iPad name, and it is the only company marketing a product that became synonymous for tablets in the first place.

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Apple prevails in Shanghai showdown with Proview, iPad sales allowed to continue

The embattled monitor maker Proview, fighting Apple over rights to the iPad name in China, suffered a blow as the Shanghai Pudong New Area People’s Court rejected a preliminary injunction against the sale of the iPad. This means Apple can continue selling iPads in its flagship Shanghai stores without fear (and embarrassment) of sales suspension.

The hearings are now postponed, because both companies are awaiting the results of a separate case in the Guangdong provincial high court, the Wall Street Journal reported today.

Proview had sought the injunction, saying it owns the iPad trademark in China. Apple, which contends that it previously purchased the rights to the iPad name from Proview, had applied in Shanghai to suspend proceedings on Wednesday. Ma Dongxiao, an attorney representing Proview, said the company doesn’t yet have a response.

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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: ‘We are now preparing for negotiations with Apple’

Cash-strapped display maker Proview that sued Apple over the iPad moniker in China feels it has the Cupertino, Calif.-headquartered gadget giant right where it wants them, cornered against the wall. Just as the Intermediate People’s Court in Huizhou ruled last Friday that local distributors should stop selling iPads in China, Proview now told The Times of India it us ready to sit at the negotiating table, apparently telling Apple it has “peaceful intentions.”

The company wants money, is hoping for an out of court settlement, and it is shooting for as high as $2 billion for the I-PAD trademark in China. Legal representatives for the debt-laden company told the paper Tuesday:

We are now preparing for negotiations. The court cases will continue until we reach an agreement.

A court in Shanghai will begin hearings tomorrow on whether Proview’s claims have any merit and the ruling could take months, Reuters reported. Whether or not Proview’s strategy works, that is anyone’s guess at this point. Apple is even threatening to sue Proview over “defamatory statements.” This highlights Apple’s unwillingness to engage in trademark licensing talks with the Chinese firm that recently filed for bankruptcy…

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Chinese Court: Stores should stop selling iPads; Apple: Proview hurt our reputation, we’ll sue over ‘defamatory statements’


Pictured above: Proview’s iMac-like computer named iPAD, released 12 years ago.

The latest in an ongoing iPad trademark dispute in China comes as Shenzhen-based Proview claims a small victory in its pursue of a $2 billion compensation from Apple over the iPad moniker in China. According to a report filed by The Associated Press, Proview’s lawyer Xie Xianghui told the media Monday that the Intermediate People’s Court in Huizhou ruled last Friday that local distributors should stop selling iPads in the country.

Previous reports declared that commercial authorities in more than 40 Chinese cities were removing the device from store shelves. Apple appealed to Guangdong’s High Court against an earlier ruling in Proview’s favor, stressing in today’s statement its case is still pending in mainland China. It should be noted that Hong Kong’s and Mainland China’s legal systems are not very much alike.

PCWorld followed up with an update and said Apple will sue Proview’s lawyers and bosses for  “defamatory statements.” Folks familiar with Apple’s letter to Proview claim it reads: “It is inappropriate to release information contrary to the facts to the media, especially when such disclosures have the effect of wrongfully causing damage to Apple’s reputation.” The document is embedded below.

So, who is the biggest beneficiary of this brouhaha? Samsung— its Galaxy Tab family of tablets is after the same high-end of the market. Per IDC, Apple in the third quarter of 2011 moved 1.3 million iPads in China versus 58,000 Galaxy Tabs.

Once a well-known display maker, Proview is now strapped for cash and recently filed for bankruptcy. The company maintains it first used the iPAD moniker, which stands for “Internet Personal Access Device,” for its iMac-like computer dated back to 2000.

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The price of the iPad name in China has gone up to $2B

Chinese vendor Proview apparently owns rights to the iPad trademark in China, and it has two billion reasons not to honor its prior agreement with Apple as the Wall Street Journal cited a representative of Proview creditors who suggested compensation from Apple “could range as high as $2 billion,” which is up from the previous sum of $1.5 billion. Cash-strapped Proview recently filed for bankruptcy, so courts could interpret this as banks’ last-ditch effort to recoup their loans to Proview.

A Hong Kong court ruled last year that Apple’s agreement with Proview was valid, but that case is still pending on the Chinese mainland. Court documents uncovered by Dow Jones suggest on Dec. 23, 2009, Apple of California bought the rights to the iPad trademark from Proview in South Korea, Thailand, Singapore, and China for a paltry sum of about $55,494 in today’s dollars. Proview waived its right to sue for past infringements and passing off.

Proview said it still owns the trademark and maintains the deal did n0t include the China market. Another court in Mainland China sided with Proview, thus paving the way for a potential injunction on both the import and export of iPads. The world’s largest contract manufacturer, Foxconn, is exclusively manufacturing Apple’s tablet in China.

Proview chairperson Yang Rongshan said today: “If we are not compensated properly, then Apple doesn’t use the iPad trademark in mainland China.” Shenzhen-based Proview, once a well-known monitor vendor, claimed it started developing a product called the iPAD in 2000. iPAD stands for “Internet Personal Access Device.” So, what does Proview’s iPAD look like? Images are right after the break.

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Apple finally talks, says Proview refuses to honor agreement to transfer iPad trademark

Numerous online stores in China took the iPad off their shelves after Proview said Apple was breaking its trademark on the term “iPad.” The fight continues in court, but Apple released a statement today to China Daily about Proview’s allegations on Apple allegedly breaking the trademark.

“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, and a Hong Kong court has sided with Apple in this matter,” according to the statement, which also said the case is still pending on the Chinese mainland.”

Apple said it purchased Proview’s iPad trademark over several years ago in 10 different countries. Proview is refusing to transfer the trademark, but Hong Kong courts have already sided with Apple, according to the statement.

Many accuse the Mainland Chinese government of favoring local companies in these types of matters, so it may not be easy to clear this hurdle for Apple. Chinese customs already said the iPad is too powerful to be banned; although, Proview tried to block iPads from coming in or going out of China earlier this week.

Proview countered the Hong Kong situation:

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Apple tells Amazon China to pull iPads over Proview trademark dispute, customs say it’s too popular to be banned

A country-wide import and export ban on Apple’s iPad that ProView is pushing for over an ongoing litigation with the iPad moniker will not be easy to implement, or at least that is what Chinese customs officials told Reuters this morning. Chinese company ProView owns the “iPad” trademark and is petitioning Chinese customs to stop shipments of iPads in and out of the country.

Foxconn manufactures the iPads in Shenzhen, China, and such a ban would disrupt global iPad supply. Another result of the legal battle over the iPad name: At Apple’s request, online shopping websites Amazon China and Suning reportedly removed the iPad until the trademark dispute is resolved. Proview is hoping to extract an estimated $1.5 billion from Apple for the rights to use the iPad moniker in China.

The plan reportedly is not working as expected, because local customs think implementing a country-wide ban on such a successful and globally popular product would be impractical, to say the least. Moreover, customs authorities are unlikely to intervene in the trademark battle, or so the story has it. For its part, Proview insists it started developing a tablet called the iPad in 2000. The company’s boss Yang Long-san confirmed the latest development to the news gathering organization:

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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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