The Higher People’s Court of Guangzhou heard the latest appeal from Apple today, after a lower court ruled in favor of Chinese tech company Proview, which says it owns the trademark “IPad” in China.
A Lawyer for Apple told the court, “The value of iPad’s trademark rocketed after Apple launched the tablet computer in January 2010, In the eyes of the consumer, iPad is associated with Apple. If the court decides that Proview wins the case, then this will confuse consumers and hurt their interests.”
In preparing for the launch of the iPad, Apple bought the “global” iPad trademark from Proview Taiwan, believing it included the Chinese trademarks. Proview (Shenzen) has since claimed the contrary, and a Shenzhen court agreed that Apple does not own the rights to the name in China. Apple is now appealing that decision.
The verdict is not expected for weeks, but the ruling of the court is crucial to bringing an end to the legal dispute that began in 2009. Another trademark infringement case in Shanghai has halted proceedings pending the verdict of this appeal, and it stands to set a precedent across lesser courts in China.
If the court rules in favor of Proview again, Apple will be forced to settle or change the name of the IPad in China. Apple would most likely not change the name of its brand in such a large market, so a settlement seems likely.
On Tuesday, Proview announced its intentions to sue Apple for fraud in the United States, and terminate the 2009 trademark deal. Proview claims that Apple did not reveal its true identity when purchasing the iPad’s global trademark, thus ensuring the sale at a much lower price. Apple bought the trademarks through a special purpose company called IP Application Development Ltd., though this is not uncommon considering the high level of secrecy big tech firms employ during new product launches.
The larger goal of Proview seems to be to create as many problems for Apple as possible, from trying to halt the sale of IPads in China to filing multiple lawsuits all over the world, to force them into a settlement. The once prominent company has seen huge cuts and is now on the verge of bankruptcy.
Speaking after the hearing, Xiao Caiyuan, a lawyer for Proview, revealed the firms eagerness to settle.
“Regarding the trademark right, this is … non-negotiable, however, if Apple wants to legally obtain permission to use the trademark, or to own the trademark by legal transfer, and it can provide a basket of proposals on settling the case outside of court, we would not refuse it.”