Proview Seeks To Halt iPad Shipments In And Out Of China

Chinese technology company Proview said Tuesday it is seeking to ban shipments of Apple’s iPads in and out of the country, alleging it owns the trademark rights to the iPad name in China.

Shenzhen-based Proview, a manufacturer of LCD computer displays, said it registered the iPad trademark in China in 2000. According to a report Tuesday from the Associated Press, Apple bought the rights to the iPad name from a Taiwanese company affiliated with Proview called Proview Taipei in 2009, but Proview claims it still maintains ownership of the brand in mainland China. A Chinese court rejected Apple’s claim to the name in December and awarded Proview continued ownership in the country. Apple has appealed the ruling.

But a wave of reports this week suggested that the trademark battle between the two companies is escalating still, with Chinese authorities seizing iPads from retail stores in northern China. Proview, which reportedly is on the brink of bankruptcy, has requested iPads be pulled from retail shelves in 30 other Chinese cities, the Associated Press said.

"We are now working on a request to China Customs to ban and seize all the import and export of the iPad products that have violated the trademark," said Xie Xianghui, a Proview lawyer. He did not say when the request might be filed, the report said.

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Apple claims it bought the worldwide rights to the iPad name in 10 countries several years ago, and that Proview is simply neglecting to respect this agreement in mainland China. Apple did not respond to a request for further comment.

A ban on the export and import of iPads from China potentially could deal a blow to Apple’s worldwide sales of the device, as its main manufacturing facilities are located within the country. Stan Abrams, a Beijing-based IP lawyer, noted how significant a setback this could be for Apple if Proview succeeds in initiating a ban with the General Administration of Customs in China.

"This is starting to look very ugly for Apple, and every day this goes on, the price for that trademark is probably going up. Proview is functionally bankrupt and they need the cash ASAP. It looks to me like they’re going to get it sooner or later," Abrams wrote in his blog. "Perhaps Apple’s legal team knows something that we don’t, but even if they think they can win these legal challenges, the commercial disruptions in the meantime are going to be significant."

What’s more, Abrams said that even if Apple wins its appeal in China, it will take some time for the company to be officially awarded ownership of the iPad name and return to business as usual in the country.

"Even if Apple goes on to win the Shenzhen appeal, it would still take some time to obtain the trademark and unwind this whole mess," he wrote. "And that 'if' is looking like a slim possibility at this point anyway."