Apple Faces $1.6 Billion Legal Challenge Over iPad Name in China

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Ramin Talaie / Bloomberg via Getty Images

Apple’s products have been a huge hit in China, but the company is facing an increasingly annoying headache there over the use of the iPad name for its wildly popular tablet computer. A Chinese company that says it owns the rights to the iPad trademark has sued Apple and asked for a court order barring the company from the selling the device in China.

Computer display manufacturer Proview Technology, a subsidiary of Hong Kong-based Proview International Holdings, said it has filed a motion for a temporary retraining order against Apple, according to The Wall Street Journal. “We have to admit that Apple’s iPad is a great product, and Apple creates great value out of that,” Yang Rongshan, chairman of the Proview subsidiary in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen, told the paper. “But this is not the reason to support their irregular practice here.”

The dispute stretches back years, and is fairly convoluted, but here are the basics: Proview International Holdings says it registered the iPad name for use in Taiwan and China in 2000 and 2001, respectively. In 2006, Apple bought the iPad trademark from a Proview subsidiary, Taiwan-based Proview Electronics, which now says the deal only included the rights to the name in Taiwan, not China. It says those rights are owned by yet another subsidiary, Proview Technology, which is based in the southern China city of Shenzhen.

For its part, Proview has had serious financial troubles, and Rongshan, Proview’s Chairman, has said that he hopes the lawsuit will end up as a boon to his company. “It is arrogant of Apple to just ignore our rights and go ahead selling the iPad in this market, and we will oppose that,” Yang told the Financial Times in 2010. “Besides that, we are in big financial trouble and the trademarks are a valuable asset that could help us sort out part of that trouble.”

Interestingly, Apple purchased the trademark using a front company called IP Application Development. Rongshan has claimed his company did not know that IP Application Development was a front for Apple, according to IBTimes. Last year, Proview Technology sued Apple for violating its trademark. Apple countersued, but lost the case. Apple has since appealed.

And now, Proview has filed for an injunction. “We ask the court to stop selling and marketing for Apple’s iPad in China,” Xie Xianghui, a lawyer representing the Proview Technology, told China Daily. “We also demand an apology.”

Proview Technology is asking for compensation between $38 million and $1.6 billion. Of course, with a cash hoard of nearly $100 billion, Apple could easily afford to pay, but chances are that’s not going to happen.

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