Reports are surfacing that Apple iPads are being removed from retail stores in China, as a result of the ongoing trademark dispute with Proview.
Spooked store owners have begun hiding their stock to avoid it being confiscated.
Government officials seized 45 Apple iPad 2 tablets over the weekend in a raid of an Apple reseller in Shijiazhuang. The raid was part of the ongoing investigation into Apple's trademark disputes in China, which continues to take a turn for the worse.
Chinese news site Hebei Youth Daily reports that following the raid, any iPad found on sale is being confiscated by the Chinese Administration of Industry and Commerce (AIC). This has led to some store-owners removing their own stock from shelves.
For customers, however, "if you ask for an iPad you can still buy one." Official Apple stores seem to be unaffected, and the iPad is still on sale despite individual retailers concerns.
At this stage it is not clear whether the actions of the AIC are just those of local authorities or whether this is the beginning of a nationwide enforcement.
However the Company has indicated that it has requested similar action in more than 20 other cities across China.
One blogger, Stan Abrams, predicted the AIC raids a few days ago. He said there was "no reason at all AIC could not raid all the Apple stores and resellers in Xicheng District and effectively shut down all iPad sales there."
The Apple vs. Proview dispute is very high profile, and Apple has a huge amount of sway, so making a nationwide step against them seems unlikely at this point.
Proview Technology (Shenzen) originally registered the trademark 'iPad' in China back in 2000. Proview Electronics (Taiwan) later sold on the 'global trademark' in 2006 to a company called IP Application Development, which at the time they did not believe to be connected to Apple. It then bought rights from IP Application Development in 2010.
Proview's claim is based around the idea that the trademarks for the Chinese market were not included in that agreement, as they had been filed under a different affiliate of the group's holding company.
Last year, Apple lost their claim that Proview was infringing on the trademark with a product of their own entitled 'iPad', which a Shenzhen court rejected.
China is still an important market for Apple. Chief executive Tim Cook said that it was "very key" to Apple's earnings last July.
The full extent of the trademark ruling remains to be seen, but Apple stands to lose a steak in an important market, especially with the iPad 3 rumoured to be announced soon.
Image source: Hebei Youth Daily/ifeng.com.
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