China seeks settlement in Apple, Proview 'iPad' trademark case

Summary:A Chinese court said it is pushing for settlement talks between Proview and Apple in the ongoing 'IPAD' trademark dispute. But Apple is not likely to bow down to such demands.

Proview vs. Apple continues as reports suggest a Chinese court is looking for the two companies to settle in what appears to the court to be a dead heat.

But the iPad maker --- in which the device's trademarked name is in dispute --- will likely fight on until the court resolves the dispute, knowing full well China's laws favour Proview in the case.

The Guangdong High Court in southern China heard Apple's appeal of a ruling against it by a lower court on February 29, and is looking for the two companies to settle. Proview had accused Apple of using its 'IPAD' trademark for its tablet device, while Apple maintains that Proview sold Apple the trademark years before.

Proview sued Apple for 10 billion yuan ($1.6 bn) in October 2011 for alleged copyright infringement, likely spurred on by its 400 million yuan ($64m) debt.

"It is likely that we will settle out of court. The Guangdong High Court is helping to arrange it and the court also expects to do so," a lawyer for Proview said quoted by the Associated Press. A local state-run newspaper cited the court's deputy chief judge saying that settlement talks were on the table.

But Apple, staunch in its defence, earlier this year released a wealth of documentation and evidence to seemingly support its case in the ongoing trademark dispute to AllThingsD.

Proview also brought its suit against the Cupertino-based technology giant to the United States earlier this year, alleging that Apple created a company named ‘IPAD’ --- an acronym for "IP Application Development Ltd." --- to conceal Apple’s involvement in buying the trademark.

Buying the trademark directly could have blown the lid off the product launch.

All eyes are on China. It has three issues to contend with, and the two remain both politically and judicially a delicate balance to meet.

Either China can help the two companies settle out of court, a decision likely to enrage Apple as it believes whole-heartedly that it was not at fault. The company also seemingly carefully and methodically complied with all applicable laws while it tried desperately not to give any clue away to the name of its upcoming tablet, as per the evidence it released.

Or, Apple may fall on the sharp end of the stick knowing that the company will not export its Foxconn operations elsewhere, despite it falling unfairly on the wrong side of the Chinese authorities.

Having said that, China can favour its own laws as it previously has done in a bid to protect Proview, which would save the company from collapse, and would potentially save tens of thousands of jobs.

ZDNet's Hana Stewart-Smith explained China's protectionist attitude towards patents, trademarks, and other intellectual property:

"It has been suggested that Chinese patent law is deliberately designed to favour Chinese based companies, in efforts to protect Chinese intellectual property. This has resulted in Chinese versions of Western brands being protected by patent law, such as Weibo in place of Twitter, and Baidu in place of Google."

Settling, logically and economically, makes more sense for China. But whether it actually can or not is an entirely different kettle of fish.

Apple has a history of standing its ground. If it settles, it partly admits guilt. In the case of the alleged collusion with five other e-book publishers in the U.S. and Europe, as antitrust authorities on both sides of the Atlantic continue their investigations, Apple refused to back down and vowed to battle on until the bitter end.

An Apple spokesperson said the company would not "knowingly abuse someone else's trademarks" but failed to elaborate further, or comment on settlement talks.

Image credit: CNET.

Related:

Topics: Hardware, Apple, Enterprise Software, iPad, Mobility, Security

About

Zack Whittaker writes for ZDNet, CNET, and CBS News. He is based in New York City.

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