Apple trademark battle threatens to halt iPad sales in China


Apple’s expansion into China, home to a devout, cult-like population of Apple Mac heads, has been marred by a trademark infringement claim mounted by Proview Technology over the use of the name “iPad.” In the most recent development, the Shenzhen subsidiary of the Hong-Kong-based company has filed an injunction to restrict Apple from selling iPads in China altogether, according to People’s Daily Online.

China has been known as an entrepreneur’s landmine, filled with copyright and trademark infringment ranging from Burberry knock offs to, not surprisingly, “iPed,” a shameless iPad clone. These typically result in American companies suing Chinese companies, but now the tables have turned. Days from today, Apple potentially faces the harrowing reality of complete exclusion from the Chinese market.

With its quickly growing middle and upper class, China has seen an increased fervor from foreign companies eager to break into its market.  For instance, Brazilian private jet maker, Embraer recently donated a $30 million private jet to Hong Kong actor Jackie Chan in exchange for his endorsement.

Back in 2000, Proview Technologies had filed a trademark for the term “iPAD” and “IPAD” in China, as its Taiwan subsidiary had sold its rights for $55,000 to the UK-based rights company, IP Application Development. With the understanding that it had acquired complete rights to the “iPad” name from IP Application, Apple began selling the iPad in China in September 2010. It was met with Proview’s complaint in 2011, seeking 240 million yuan ($38 million USD) in damages. Apple later countersued, but the case was dismissed. While Apple had acquired the rights to the name in Taiwan, the rights in the contract did not extend to its use in China, according to a court ruling in 2011 favoring Proview Technologies.

Proview Technology’s lawyer, Xie Xianghui, confirmed that the Chinese subsidiary filed an order with Beijing’s court, seeking for Apple to temporarily discontinue the selling and marketing of the iPad in China, and an apology. The decision is expected to come within 48 hours. Proview will also claim 10 billion yuan ($1.6 billion USD) in damages.

Proview has also filed a complaint in two other Chinese cities and had sued two other retailers selling iPads.

While lawsuits in the United States typically entail years of litigations, verdicts in China are more often concluded in a matter of several months. With Proview Technologies purported to be drowning in debt, according to Xiamen Economic Daily, the case seemingly couldn’t have seeming come at a better time for the Hong Kong company.