Apple offers settlement in trademark case

Updated: 2012-05-08 07:07

By Xinhua (China Daily / Xinhua)

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Tech giant Apple has offered compensation to settle a dispute over ownership of the iPad trademark in China, said a lawyer connected with the case.

"Right now, there is still a big gap between the two sides on the settlement amount," said Xie Xianghui, a lawyer for Proview Technology (Shenzhen) Co, which claims it owns the iPad trademark on the Chinese mainland.

Xie declined to disclose the amount or when Apple made the offer.

"The Guangdong High People's Court is trying to mediate this, and both parties are trying to negotiate and come to a settlement," Xie said.

Carolyn Wu, a spokeswoman for Apple in Beijing, declined to comment on Xie's remarks.

Apple has said it acquired the rights to the iPad trademark in China from a Proview sister company in 2009 and that the company has refused to honor that agreement.

On Feb 29, the Guangdong court heard Apple's appeal of a lower court ruling last year that Shenzhen Proview owned the iPad trademark in China.

Proview, a Shenzhen-based maker of computer screens and LED lights, has been suing Apple in court over the right to use the iPad trademark commonly associated with the California-based technology giant's popular tablet computer.

Proview claims that the Taipei subsidiary of its Hong Kong-based parent, Proview International Holdings, registered the iPad trademark in a number of countries and regions as early as 2000.

Though Apple bought the rights to use the iPad trademark from Proview Taipei in 2009, Shenzhen Proview says it reserves the right to use the trademark it registered on the Chinese mainland in 2001.

Shenzhen Proview claims that it is a different entity than Proview Taipei and thus is not bound by the deal between Proview Taipei and Apple.

Apple, however, insists the 2009 purchase of the iPad trademark worldwide includes the right to use it on the Chinese mainland.

Although the dispute between the two sides is fierce, Apple's products sold like hot cakes in China. Last year, China contributed 16 percent of Apple's revenues during its fiscal quarter ending September, almost triple from a year earlier.

Apple unveiled its latest iPad in the United States on March 8, but it has not started selling it on the Chinese mainland. It remains unclear whether the trademark dispute will further postpone the sale of Apple's latest tablet computer with the "iPad" name in China.

Some Apple fans have purchased new iPads from Hong Kong or abroad, even through smugglers.

"It's good for both sides to reach a settlement as soon as possible," said Xie.

The possibility that Proview will win the lawsuit is very high, but it may take years to get the compensation, said Li Xiaoning, a lawyer specializing in intellectual property rights cases.

Proview stumbled in the 2008 global financial crisis and applied for bankruptcy protection in 2009 as it owed more than $400 million to eight Chinese banks, according to media reports.

Bloomberg News contributed to this story.