A Chinese court is leaning in favor of Apple in a convoluted case over who holds the right to use the term “iPad” in that country.
Chinese manufacturer Proview Technology had owned the trademark, but it failed to transfer the trademarks for “iPad” to Apple, which claimed to have purchased the product name years ago.
“We bought Proview’s worldwide rights to the iPad trademark in 10 different countries several years ago,” according to a statement from Apple. “Proview refuses to honor their agreement with Apple, and a Hong Kong court has sided with Apple in this matter.”
Proview Technology says it has owned the trademark since 2001, but Apple says it made a deal to buy the trademark before the iPad was ever released.
Proview has locations in Taiwan, Shenzhen, Wuhan, Hong Kong and Europe, with its Taiwan office acting as Proview Electronics, an affiliate of Proview. The company says Apple bought the trademark from its Taiwan entity. Since the patent belongs to the Shenzhen office, Proview did not feel the need to honor the agreement.
Judge Hon Poon of the High Court in Hong Kong, however, formally disagreed with that assessment.
All Proview’s entities are run by Yang Rongshan, who was the chairman and chief executive of the company until it went bankrupt in August 2010.
According to court documents, the deal between Apple and Proview occured in December 2009, with the “iPad” moniker selling for around $55,000. Apple says it was led to believe all of the Chinese trademarks for “iPad” existed with Proview Electronics, the Taiwanese entity, as proprieter and thus were due the transfer of ownership.
When the iPad was released, Apple found that some of the trademarks existed under Proview Shenzhen and reported it as a “mistake,” after which Proview demanded Apple pay $10 million for the trademark. China Daily reports a lawyer for Proview suggested that Apple either pay the sum requested by Proview or find another name for the iPad.
The financial clues leading up to Proview’s bankruptcy emerged, including a stop on the sale of its stock on the Hong Kong stock exchange. And since all the Proview entities existed under Yang Rongshan, Judge Poon called foul:
“Here, the conduct of all the defendants demonstrate that they have combined together with the common intention of injuring Apple and IP Application by acting in breach of the Agreement. Proview Holdings, Proview Electronics and Proview Shenzhen, all clearly under Yang’s control, have refused to take any steps to ensure compliance with the Agreement so that the China Trademarks are properly assigned or transferred to IP Application (Apple’s third party trademark purchaser). Instead, they attempted to exploit the situation as a business opportunity for the Proview Group by seeking an amount of $10,000,000 from Apple.”
He went on to say, “It is plain the defendants had the necessary intent to injure Apple.. and their conduct will cause damage to them. Accordingly, I am satisfied that there is clearly a serious question to be tried for the claim of conspiracy.”
hat tip All Things D