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

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.

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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.

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

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5 comments
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  • Suddenly Taiwan is admittedly Chinese....

    Convenient how a subsidiary of a Taiwanese company is simply "Chinese " when one wants to argue or paint a picture of the evil Chicoms trying to rip off those honest people at Apple despite them admittedly having embarrassingly forgotten to purchase Mainland rights to the tradmark out of shear neglect. Or is it simply because Apple did not expect any significant mainland market back in the early 2000's when they bought the rights in 10 different "countries"? Don;t attack the system, claiming unfair favourtism to the "local" player when in actuality it is really only foreign interest involved.
    kl_iscool
    • Court paper says that trademark paper was signed by Chinese guy, too

      So there was nothing "admittedly" about this thing.
      DDERSSS
  • Interesting.

    I wonder if China realizes that Apple is more than likely in the right in this matter: That an independent company (or possibly a dummy company funded by Apple) bought the trademark from Proview and then sold that trademark to Apple. I hope that Apple and Proview both refuse to settle but goes on with this case to show that they are indeed in the right - or allow Proview to prove that Apple is in the wrong.

    And another interesting point is the one kl_iscool brought up - that Proview is a Taiwanese company... are they suddenly Chinese now?

    I'm not much for long drawn out court battles but I'm honestly tired of the whole religious fanboi debate on this based on nothing more than either slavish Apple love or just as slavish Apple hate.
    NonFanboy
  • Look Deeper - This Isn't About Apple

    There's a strong likelihood that China IS deliberately slanting its IP laws and the courts that hear cases involving them to favour Chinese registration of IP. It is easier to register a patent in China, including ones that would be considered derivative and non-registrable in the West. And Chinese courts have a 99% plus track record of siding with companies who have registered their patents in China. It looks as though China is setting up a firewall behind which companies that register patents in China will find it much, much easier to defy laws protecting IP in other countries.

    I've read that there's a Chinese car made by "Chery" that is virtually identical to a Chevy made in China. It's so similar that the parts are interchangeable. Chinese courts rebuffed a GM complaint about it, admitting that the parts are interchangeable, but that it was due to "coincidence".
    rickettyrabbit
  • Well Surprise, Surprise

    Is there a company out there that Apple is not suing. Just the other day, my grandson said, Poppa...IPEE. Thank God the windows were shut, and a worm from aple did not hear him.
    clowdy4