Shenzhen May 10, 2012

Shenzhen April 24, 2012

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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Shenzhen February 22, 2012

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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Shenzhen February 20, 2012

Note: A YouTube version should be up soon

As promised, ABC aired its documentary about Foxconn factories producing Apple products. In an unprecedented move, Apple decided to grant the network’s “Nightline” program full access to its Chinese supply chain, so correspondent Bill Weir traveled to Shenzhen, China to look at “iFactories,” as ABC dubbed them.

Full disclosure: Disney Corporation owns the ABC News network. The fact that the Steve Jobs Trust is Disney’s largest individual shareholder, coupled with Disney CEO Bob Iger now having a seat on Apple’s board of directors, certainly helped win the official approval from Apple. It also raises questions on a possible conflict of interest with this report.

The full “iFactory: Inside Apple” report is scheduled to air on a special edition of “Nightline” due tomorrow, Feb. 21, at 11:35pm ET/PT. A preview will air on “Good Morning America” and “World News with Diane Sawyer.” A long article that accompanies a video teaser, included above for your convenience, offers a grim description of working conditions inside Foxconn plants:

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Shenzhen February 15, 2012

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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Shenzhen February 14, 2012

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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