updated 01:15 am EDT, Fri June 22, 2012
Trademark battle with Apple over iPad name at risk
An appeal to a Chinese court by creditor Fubon Insurance may force an early end to Apple's trademark dispute with failing Chinese manufacturer Proview. Fubon is attempting to have an earlier lower court ruling in April overturned. The lower court had blocked the liquidation of Proview pending the outcome of the hearings with Apple in regards to the iPad name. Wednesday's Chinese high court hearing sought to have Proview Technology immediately liquidated to help pay the $8.6 million the former display company owes the insurer.
The iPad trademark was purchased by Apple through a front company, the IP Application Development Limited (IPAD Ltd.) proxy corporation. Already cash-strapped by a series of bad business decisions and a collapsing international economy, Proview sold the name to England's IPAD, Ltd, unaware it was Apple's proxy, for $55,000. Proview's most recent claim against Apple is that the purchase of the iPad name didn't apply to mainland China, as it was sold by Taiwan's Proview Electronics, rather than the Shenzhen-based Proview Technology Shenzhen Co, Ltd. Apple appealed and won in a Hong Kong court, but Proview appealed to the court in Shenzhen. The trademark dispute between Apple and Proview is in stasis, pending court-sponsored mediation between the two which has no set deadline for completion.
The iPad name is considered to be Proview's last salable asset worth enough to drag the company out of bankruptcy, or at least generate enough income to pay the company's mounting debt. Proview's primary tactic in court is to paint themselves as victims of a non-Chinese company taking advantage of the financial situation of the failing manufacturer, using deceit to drive the price down. Apple's contention is that Proview is attempting a shakedown of the international business leader, and has been using loopholes to escape the deal to force a higher trademark payment after the fact.
Following a short-lived legal attack in the US by Proview, Apple attempted to settle the suit in May for $16 million, but Proview rejected the offer and reportedly needed $400 million to clear all of its debts to 200 creditors. Proview has previously asked for up to $1.6 billion for the name. In all likelihood, if Proview is forced into liquidation, legal experts expect the trademark claim will die with the company.