Hearing ends without ruling over iPad name

Updated: 2012-03-01 07:29

By Zheng Caixiong and Qiu Quanlin (China Daily)

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GUANGZHOU - A court in Guangdong province did not make a final ruling on a lengthy iPad trademark dispute between a Chinese company and tech giant Apple after a public hearing on Wednesday.

The latest hearing, held in Guangdong Provincial High People's Court, followed an initial ruling by the Shenzhen Intermediate People's Court, which rejected a lawsuit in December by Apple and IP Application Development accusing Proview Technology of infringing on the iPad trademark.

Hearing ends without ruling over iPad name

Graham Michael Robinson, witness for tech company Apple, is surrounded by reporters outside the Guangdong High People's Court in Guangzhou, Guangdong province, on Wednesday, as the court held a public hearing on the iPad trademark dispute. [Zong Tao / China News Service]

The hearing on Wednesday focused on whether Proview Electronics, a Taiwan-based company, had the right to represent Shenzhen-based Proview Technology to sell the iPad trademark.

Xiao Caiyuan, the attorney for Shenzhen Proview, said Shenzhen Proview and Taiwan Proview are two independent companies and the contract signed between Taiwan Proview and Apple for the iPad trademark transfer on the mainland was invalid.

But attorneys for Apple said Taiwan Proview was linked with Shenzhen Proview and that Apple has the right to use the iPad trademark on the mainland.

Meanwhile, senior executives from Shenzhen Proview, including Yang Rongshan, Mai Shihong and Yuan Hui, have participated in the negotiations for the trademark transfer, representing Taiwan Proview, attorneys for Apple said during the hearing.

Yang was chairman of Shenzhen Proview before he resigned in early 2010, while Mai was director of the legal affairs department with the company.

Taiwan Proview registered the iPad trademark in a number of countries and regions as early as 2000, with Shenzhen Proview registering the trademark on the mainland a year later.

At the hearing on Wednesday, representative lawyers of Apple and IP showed new evidence including e-mails between both sides during the early negotiations for the trademark deal.

However, Xiao argued Shenzhen Proview never asked its executives to negotiate with Apple and IP to sell the iPad trademark on the mainland, and Yang himself did not have the right to sell the company's properties.

Shenzhen Proview has registered and used the iPad trademark for more than a decade on the Chinese mainland, he said.

"The contract for the mainland's iPad trademark transfer was signed between Taiwan Proview and Apple and IP Application Development Limited in December of 2009, not Shenzhen Proview," Xiao said.

Apple and IP paid $56,000 to Taiwan Proview for the iPad trademark transfer.

Hearing ends without ruling over iPad name

Customers test out Apple iPads in an Apple Store in downtown Shanghai Feb 29, 2012. [Photo/Agencies]

Ma Dongxiao, a lawyer representing Shenzhen Proview, said he was confident of winning the lawsuit.

"E-mails presented by Apple at court actually have no legal validity," Ma told China Daily.

The e-mails showed that Yuan Hui, a staff member of Shenzhen Proview, was once involved in the trademark transfer negotiation.

"Yuan was actually asked by Taiwan Proview to help translate some documents during the transfer negotiation. He had no right to represent the Shenzhen side to sign the contract," Ma said.

Also, a lawyer surnamed Wang who attended the public hearing, said Shenzhen Proview has a good chance of winning, according to the evidence produced by both parties so far.

"Shenzhen Proview and Taiwan Proview are after all two different companies, and Shenzhen Proview has never signed the iPad trademark transfer contract with the foreign companies," Wang with the Guangdong Kede Law Firm told China Daily.

If the court finds that Apple has infringed on the trademark rights of Shenzhen Proview, its wildly popular iPad tablet computers will be banned from sale on the Chinese mainland.

Wang said the provincial court may uphold the verdict passed by the Shenzhen court in its first trial.

But in a related case heard late last month in Shanghai - where Shenzhen Proview sued Apple's chief distributor in China - the court rejected a request to stop iPad sales.