Firm tries to block iPad on mainland

Updated: 2012-02-15 10:55

By Wang Huazhong (China Daily)

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BEIJING -A Shenzhen-based enterprise claiming ownership of the iPad trademark in China is calling on customs authorities to bar the export and import of Apple's iPad 3.

Proview Technology Shenzhen holds the trademark it registered in 2001, according to the official website of China's trademark authority, while the technology company Apple argued it bought the name from Proview Taiwan, which is associated with but still a separate entity from the Shenzhen company.

"We plan to file the complaints to customs by the end of this month and ask for an embargo on the import and export of the iPad," said Xie Xianghui, a lawyer representing Proview Technology Shenzhen. "We are asking for the ban especially for the iPad 3."

China is the major location for factories that supply and assemble a wide range of Apple products. Apple's sales volume in China accounts for 16 percent of the company's global revenue, while sales in China only made up 2 percent two years ago, according to media reports.

The new generation of iPad is expected to make its debut in early March, according to US media reports.

Xie rebutted a popular criticism that Proview Shenzhen, a company on the verge of bankruptcy that has not produced any iPad products, is exploiting Apple.

"Assume we have a house. If we don't live in it, should we give it away or sell it?" he said.

He said Proview Shenzhen is undergoing debt restructuring. It has to be responsible to its shareholders and creditors by getting the most out of any valuable property.

"We will keep filing complaints to more market regulatory authorities in other provinces until we win the fight for our rights," Xie said.

More than 20 administrations for industry and commerce in nine provinces have begun investigations or are already taking measures against Apple.

Gao Wei, a law enforcement official in Xinhua district of Shijiazhuang, Hebei province, told Hebei Youth Daily that his team conducted a raid on iPads made by Apple in authorized and unauthorized resale channels of his jurisdiction at the request of Proview Shenzhen.

The two days of raids resulted in the confiscation of 45 units of the iPad 2 and a fine that is equal to up to no more than five times the value of illegally gained revenue.

Gao's counterpart in Beijing's Xicheng district is also considering levy a fine of up to 240 million yuan ($38 million) against Apple for trademark infringement.

The two district administrations declined to comment to China Daily on Tuesday.

On the judicial side, the High People's Court in Guangdong will hear Apple's appeal for the exclusive ownership of the iPad trademark on Feb 29.

Meanwhile, a district court in Shanghai will open a trial on Feb 22 in which Proview Shenzhen will call on Apple to admit its infringement and apologize.

Lawyers not connected with the case said the dispute will likely be addressed through mediation out of court, and fines by business regulators should be reconsidered before a verdict is given.

"Mediation is very likely because the trademark remains Shenzhen Proview's property, according to official records. Taiwan Proview cannot make a decision on behalf of Shenzhen Proview because they are two separate companies," said Zhu Kongmiao, a Beijing lawyer.

She added Apple has maintained a tough posture despite pressure from Proview Shenzhen because the two sides are wrestling to reach an agreement on a price for the transfer of the rights.

Zhang Lichao, an Apple fan, said he would buy the iPad regardless of its name or copyright.

"I'm not blindly supporting Apple. I ignore Proview Shenzhen's accusation because it has not made any product like the iPad that is worthy of our nation's pride or that is worth fighting for."

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