The Shenzhen Municipal Intermedia People’s Court has rejected (Chinese) two trademark lawsuits filed by Apple over the trademark for the term “iPad,” ruling that the Chinese company Proview, based in Shenzen, had registered for the trademarks for “iPAD” and “IPAD” in China as far back as 2001. Although Apple had a contract to use the trademark, the court ruled that since Apple’s deal was only through a Taiwan-based subsidiary, it doesn’t apply to the company based in Shenzen.

If Apple were to lose the trademark battle over the iPad name, it might have to make a very expensive, separate deal with the Shenzen-based Proview—or sell the iPad under a different name altogether in China.

As with other worldwide markets, the iPad is the top-selling tablet device in China, accounting for almost three quarters of the tablet market in the second quarter of 2011, according to Beijing-based Analysys International (Chinese). Proview has tried—and failed—to launch its own tablet in China.

According to the court, in 2009 a Proview subsidiary in Taiwan sold the iPad trademark to IP Applications, a UK-based intellectual property clearinghouse. Apple subsequently inked a deal with IP Applications to use the iPad trademark.

However, the court found that since the contract was only with the Taiwanese subsidiary and the mainland company was not present at any trademark negotiations, the Shenzen-based Proview did not transfer any trademark rights in China, and Apple’s contract with IP Applications—and the Proview subsidiary in Taiwan—did not bind the Shenzen-based Proview.

Proview has a separate case against Apple pending in China, alleging trademark infringement over the iPad name. It’s seeking to bar the sale of the Apple iPad in China.

Apple has declined to comment on the case, but according to reports still has an option to appeal the court’s ruling.