China's Proview seeks iPad trade ban in Apple trademark row

HONG KONG/SHANGHAI Tue Feb 14, 2012 4:39pm IST

The Apple iPad 2 is shown during its launch event in San Francisco, California March 2, 2011. REUTERS/Beck Diefenbach/Files

The Apple iPad 2 is shown during its launch event in San Francisco, California March 2, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Beck Diefenbach/Files

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HONG KONG/SHANGHAI (Reuters) - A Chinese tech firm claiming to own the "iPad" trademark plans to seek a ban on exports of Apple Inc's computer tablets from China, a lawyer for the company said.

If successful, the move would deal a blow to the U.S. technology giant's iPad sales. Not only is China a huge consumer market but it is a major production base for the American company's iconic products including the iPad, iPhone and iPod.

The Chinese firm Proview Technology (Shenzhen) Co Ltd is petitioning Chinese customs to stop shipments of Apple's popular iPads in and out of China, though the customs have not responded to its request, lawyer Xie Xianghui told Asian Legal Business, a Thomson Reuters publication.

Apple's legal tussle with Proview Technology (Shenzhen) over the widely popular iPad brand name is emerging as the latest headache for the U.S. giant in the booming market and sheds light on the minefield of trademark infringement cases.

Proview's latest salvo comes a day after media reports that authorities in some Chinese cities had ordered retailers to stop selling Apple's iPad due to the dispute.

Apple said it had bought the worldwide rights to the trademark long ago.

"We bought Proview's worldwide rights to the iPad trademark in 10 different countries several years ago. Proview refuses to honor their agreement with Apple in China and a Hong Kong court has sided with Apple in this matter," an Apple spokeswoman said.

Proview Technology (Shenzhen) has asked authorities in about 20 cities, including Shijiazhuang near Beijing, to stop retailers from selling the popular iPad tablet PC and has also filed lawsuits against Apple in Shanghai and Shenzhen, and retailers selling iPads in Futian and Huizhou.

A more likely outcome would be a settlement out of court and Apple paying a compensation to use the iPad name in China, lawyers said, adding that the U.S. technology giant does have some bargaining power over the amount to be paid since it is virtually the only company Proview can sell the name to.

"There are two views we can take here. One view is, Apple was not sufficiently prudent and therefore, this was missed by Apple and its attorneys," said Elliot Papageorgiou, a partner and executive based in Shanghai at law firm Rouse Legal (China).

"A more charitable view would be that, Apple said that for business reasons we need to use this brand and as far as the name in China is concerned, let's cross the bridge when we come to it," he said.

(Additional reporting by Lee Chyen Yee in HONG KONG; Editing by Neil Fullick)

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