Apple battles to avoid iPad ban in China
THE latest stage of Apple’s battle to use the "iPad" trademark in China saw heated exchanges in a Shanghai court, as the technology giant fought to avoid disruption to global supplies of its best-selling tablet.
The technology giant is under attack from Shenzhen Proview Technology, a Chinese company, which registered the iPad trademark in 2001. Apple bought rights to the name fro £35,000 from a Taiwanese company affiliated with Proview but the mainland company says it still owns the name in China.
Proview’s lawyer Xie Xianghui today argued that the sale of the iPad trademark to Apple by the Taiwanese affiliate in 2009 was invalid.
"Apple has no right to sell iPads under that name," Xie said.
Apple countered that Proview violated the sales contract by failing to transfer the trademark rights in mainland China. It also claimed that Proview has not marketed its own “IPAD” for several years, thus possibly invalidating its claim to the trademark.
As evidence in court, Proview presented a flat, thin computer packed in a cardboard box that it said is its "IPAD."
The hearing adjourned after a fractious four-hour session which saw the judge repeatedly admonishing both sides to observe proper court protocol as they argued across the courtroom. No date was announced for a judgment or further hearings.
The hearing followed action by authorities last week, who reportedly seized Apple iPads from retailers in four Chinese cities. Proview said it would ask for a ban on imports and exports of the device, which could disrupt global supplies since it is manufactured in China. There has been no sign of such an nationwide embargo however.
"They have no market, no sales, no customers. They have nothing," Apple’s lawyer, Qu Miao, said of Proview.
"The iPad is so popular that it is in short supply. We have to consider the public good."
Proview, which is said to be deep in debt, argued such considerations were irrelevant.
"Whether people will go hungry because you can't sell iPads in China is not the issue," said Mr Xie.
"The court must rule according to the law. Do you absolutely have to sell the product? Can't you sell it using a different name?"
He suggested that since no final court rulings have been made, the parties could “still able to sit together and reach an out-of-court settlement”.
Proview also said it will continue to pursue Apple for trademark infringement in other provincial courts. Apple has appealed an earlier ruling in favour of Proview in a court in Shenzhen, a city in southern China's Guangdong province. The Guangdong High Court is due to hear that case on 29 February.
The legal battle is not the first Apple has faced over naming its products. In 2007 it reached a deal with Cisco to use the “iPhone” brand worldwide, which the latter had trademarked in 2000.