Global Observer

Trademark war halts iPad sales in Chinese cities

Trademark war halts iPad sales in Chinese cities

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HONG KONG -- A Chinese tech company claims it owns the Apple tablet's name in a legal battle that is disrupting iPad sales in China.

HONG KONG — A Chinese company is seeking compensation from Apple for trademark infringement of the iPad name. Following a court ruling in China, the popular tablet has already been taken off store shelves in a slew of Chinese cities.

The computer-monitor manufacturer Proview Technology (Shenzhen), whose parent company is based in Hong Kong, claims that it owns iPad’s trademark rights in China and had never sold it to Apple. The Chinese company says it estimates it could win $2 billion in a U.S. lawsuit.

In a statement, Apple said it bought from Proview the worldwide rights in 10 countries to the iPad name several years ago. In November, a court in Shenzhen, China, ruled against Apple in a lawsuit, but a Hong Kong court had sided with Apple in a related suit.

The legal tussle has had real ramifications for Apple, as retailers in major Chinese cities have been ordered to stop selling iPads, as reported by Reuters.

Proview told the South China Morning Post that more than 30 commerce bureaus have taken action to halt iPad sales. Proview’s lawyer said Apple missed a crucial step when acquiring the trademark, which was to get approval from China’s trademark office.

In 2009, Apple set up a company called IP Application to buy the iPad trademark. According to Hong Kong court records, Proview’s Hong Kong-based parent company had originally agreed to sell the name to IP Application for $55,400.

Last year, a Hong Kong judge upheld Apple’s trademark right to the iPad brand in China. He ruled that Apple was intentionally misled by the various arms of Proview to make its trademark rights ineffective in China. The judge said they “combined together with the common intention of injuring Apple and IP Application by acting in breach of agreement.”

The beleaguered Proview had declared bankruptcy in 2010 and had its bank accounts frozen — sending a strong whiff of desperation.

Photo: Flickr/geographyalltheway.com

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Vanessa Ko

Correspondent (Hong Kong)

Vanessa Ko has written for TIME, South China Morning Post and Phnom Penh Post. She holds degrees from Northwestern University and the University of Hong Kong. She is based in Hong Kong, China. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure