In case you missed it Chinese courts rejected Apple’s claim to the iPad trademark and they are now facing a $1.6 Billion lawsuit from Proview. As apart of this lawsuit government officials in Shijiazhuang raided an unnamed Apple reseller over the weekend. As a part of the raid 45 ′s were seized as part of the investigation. Retailers who voluntarily removed their iPads apparently did so to protect their stocks from confiscation, and are reportedly continuing to sell the tablet behind the counter.
Beijing-based IP and IT lawyer Stan Abrams, who predicted the raid last week, points out that Proview’s case is strong, and different cities across the country might act separately:
Proview has apparently filed an enforcement application with the Beijing Administration of Industry and Commerce (AIC) [and has] a pending appeal to the High Court on a Shenzhen contract-based lawsuit that Proview won at the lower level, and a trademark infringement case that Proview filed in Shanghai.
Since Proview is the legal owner of thetrademark in China and, as far as we know, Apple has no good evidence that Proview filed the trademark in bad faith over a decade ago, it certainly looks good for Proview in both cases, particularly the one in Shanghai.
Local AICs [being federal agencies] have the authority to handle intellectual property infringement cases that involve trademark and unfair competition. In the case of the iPad dispute, we are dealing with trademark infringement.
What can the AIC do? It can raid premises, seize documents, equipment, products and counterfeit marks, and it can halt activity and lock down businesses. Once AIC makes a decision about infringement, it can order fines (these go to the government, not the trademark owner), revoke business licenses, and mandate a public apology.
If this is news to you an you’re wondering how this all came about back in 2006, Apple used a UK company called IP Application Development to quietly buy the global rights to use the iPad trademark from Proview Electronics. However, supposedly this deal did not somehow include the rights to use the iPad name in China. Reportedly, Proview’s chairman, Yang Rongshan, didn’t realize there was a connection between IP Application Development and Apple. But once Rongshan realized the connection, that’s when matters escalated.
Proview threatened a lawsuit against Apple back in 2010, but didn’t actually follow through until 2011. Apple countersued, but lost their case.
Naturally, an appeal has been made, but the Xicheng district court administration has said that the case is still under investigation. Additional lawsuits have been filed in Shenzhen and Huizhou to stop the marketing and sales of the iPad in China. Damages totalling between $38 million and $1.6 billion dollars are sought by Proview Technology.
China is one of the largest economies in the world, loosing the iPad in China would cost Apple more than $1.6B in the long run.