With the iPad one of the most popular tablets in the world, it seems ridiculous that the tablet may not be able to be sold under the name “iPad” in China, where the device is manufactured. But that is exactly what company Proview Technology claims, due to its trademarked product the Internet Personal Access Device (IPAD), which hasn’t been sold in China in years.
Apple has been attempting to rectify the situation for years, having bought the trademark from Proview in 2009 through a UK-based firm to help hide the fact that Apple was the purchaser and make the deal go through quickly. But Proview claims that Apple didn’t buy the trademark from the right subsidiary, and that the Taiwanese purchase of the trademark isn’t valid in mainland China. Proview is suing Apple over trademark infringement in the court system in many cities, leading many iPad retailers in China to stop selling the device at Proview’s request. Though a Chinese court rejected Proview’s injunction on the tablet’s sales in the country, the company hasn’t given up hopes of winning the overall war against Apple.
So far, the ruling in Shenzhen, the Chinese city where many tech companies have their latest products manufactured, was in favor of Proview, although Apple is clearly going to appeal that ruling. If Apple loses the case, it may have to pull out of Shenzen, removing one of the city’s major drivers of employment and forcing the company to find a new place to develop its latest rapid prototype and produce its future products. The most recent ruling, in Shanghai, was in favor of Apple, allowing the stores in this major city to keep selling iPads without fear of legal repercussions. Similar cases are pending in more than 40 other cities throughout China, and it is time for Apple and Proview to start talking and work the issue out.
Proview’s case is based on the fact that it still technically owns the trademark in China and Apple is selling its product there under the same name, in violation of the law. However, the case is on shaky ground because it appears that Apple bought the rights to the name and Proview failed to follow through with transferring the trademark to Apple in mainland China. It’s likely that Proview is fully aware of this, but is attempting to get everything it can out of the dispute before the courts get to the bottom of the situation. Proview has filed for bankruptcy, so a big settlement from Apple could make a significant impact.
With the popularity of the iPad in China, it is unlikely that Proview will be able to keep the product from being sold there. Apple is sticking to its side of the story, that it owns the rights to the name in China. Due to the popularity of the product and the question over the trademark purchase, we shouldn’t expect to see a widespread ban. Instead, the courts will probably eventually rule that Apple’s deal is legitimate, unless Apple decides to settle outside of the courts before then just to get the situation over with and move on with sales in China.