First, the good news: Apple shares briefly hit $500 Monday morning for the first time in its history — an impressive milestone and psychological threshold that underscores the incredible success of America’s largest technology company. Now, the bad news: Apple’s headaches in China continue, as authorities in the northern city of Shijiazhuang have reportedly confiscated dozens of iPads due to an escalating copyright dispute.
Apple is now indisputably America’s most valuable company, with a market capitalization of $466 billion. Exxon Mobil, by contrast, is valued at $398 billion. Apple soaring stock price, which has made the company worth more than Microsoft and Google combined, is being fueled by its stunning financial results: Last quarter the company reported a profit of $13.1 billion on sales of $46.3 billion. And rumors that a new version of the iPad will appear next month are driving the company’s share price higher still.
But even as Apple has risen to new heights in the U.S., the company faces continued headaches in China. Specifically, Apple is embroiled in an escalating copyright dispute over the term “iPad,” in which a Chinese company has asked for a court order barring the company from the selling the device in China. On Monday, news emerged that the case has taken an ominous turn for Apple. Officials with the Xinhua District Administration of Industry and Commerce have confiscated dozens of iPads from retailers in the city of Shijiazhuang, according to The Wall Street Journal‘s China Realtime Report. The seizure occurred following a complaint by Proview Technology, which claims to own the iPad trademark in China.
The Journal cited the blog of Beijing-based intellectual property lawyer Stan Abrams, who wrote that the copyright dispute seems to be taking a negative turn for Apple. “This is starting to look very ugly for Apple, and every day this goes on, the price for that trademark is probably going up,” Abrams wrote. “Perhaps Apple’s legal team knows something that we don’t, but even if they think they can win these legal challenges, the commercial disruptions in the meantime are going to be significant.”
“It’s going to be a very rough year for the iPad in China unless this whole thing is wrapped up immediately via a settlement,” Abrams added.
Meanwhile, Apple said Monday that it has asked the Fair Labor Association to conduct “special voluntary audits” of the company’s supplier factories in China. The move comes weeks after reports in The New York Times focused attention on working conditions at Apple contractors, particularly Foxconn, the massive factory complex which produces iPhone and iPads, as well as devices for most of the world’s top high-tech companies. The FLA will report its findings in March, which means that the controversy over Apple’s supplier working conditions will continue into next month.