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Apple set for iPad trademark battle in Chinese appeals court

posted 27 Feb 2012, 17:33 by Mpelembe   [ updated 27 Feb 2012, 17:34 ]

Apple is gearing up for an appeals hearing at a high court in China over its dispute of the ownership of the iPad trademark with a Chinese technology company.

SHANGHAI, CHINA  (REUTERS) - Apple is gearing up for a high court battle with a Chinese technology company as it battles for the right to the iPad trademark in China.

A high court in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou will begin hearing an appeal case of the trademark ownership dispute between Apple and Proview Technology.

The battle between the little-known Asian company and the world's most valuable technology corporation dates back to a disagreement over precisely what was covered in a deal for the transfer of the iPad trademark to Apple in 2009.

After winning the original trial of trademark ownership dispute, Proview has been suing Apple in various jurisdictions in the country for trademark infringement, while also using the courts to get retailers in some smaller cities to stop selling the tablet PCs in China.

A decision against Apple in the appeal hearing in Guangzhou will deal a huge setback for Apple in China, its second-biggest market by revenue, and hamper its efforts to produce iPads for the global market from China.

Lawyers said a verdict in the appeals hearing would take months in such a high-profile case.

"For this case, it is quite special because it has attracted a lot of attention and viewpoints from different groups of people in society, including the conflicting viewpoints of some famous people, and people in the government. So it might be that this appeal case would not have a verdict in such a short period of time," said Jeremy Zhou, a partner of Joinway Law Firm in Shanghai.

Apple had reiterated its statement saying that it had bought Proview's world-wide rights to the iPad trademark in 10 different countries several years ago.

It also said that Proview had refused to honour their agreement and a Hong Kong court had sided with the U.S. technology giant in the matter.

Local media have said Proview is seeking up to 10 billion yuan (1.6 billion U.S. dollars) in compensation.

Zhou said he felt Proview had a good case and during the appeals hearing, it would be up to Apple to provide compelling new evidence for the court to overrule the original verdict.

"Unless Apple can provide some new evidence in the appeals hearing and that this evidence can overrule the original verdict, if not, there is a bigger possibility that the court would maintain its original ruling. In my personal opinion, there is only a small possibility that the appeals court would actually overrule the ruling made in the original case," he said.

Proview parent, Hong Kong-listed Proview International Holdings Ltd, was the first Taiwanese technology company to list in Hong Kong and by the end of the 1990s numbered itself among the top five computer monitor makers.

In 1999 it partnered with U.S. chip maker National Semiconductor to launch the I-PAD, a stripped-down desktop computer whose main selling points were its Internet connectivity and ease of use.

Proview continued to grow, shifting from computer monitors to become the world's third-largest OEM manufacturer of flat panel TVs.

But by August 2009, when Apple began trademark talks through a proxy to buy the iPad trademark, Proview had been badly hammered by the financial crisis.

Trading of its stock was suspended in Hong Kong in August 2010 after creditors in China went to court to recover assets. The company faces delisting in June if it cannot provide the Hong Kong Stock Exchange with a viable rescue plan.