The Beijing Municipal Bureau of Industry and Commerce has accepted a case, regarding the alleged trademark infringement of the iPad. For Apple, this could potentially mean a multi-million dollar fine.
To Apple fans the world over, the name iPad is synonymous with Steve Job's best-selling tablet. But could it be that the trademark for the name iPad actually belongs to another company?
That company is Shenzhen-based Proview Technology - a subsidiary of one of a major monitor manufacturer. The tussle over the trademark "iPad" has taken the two companies in and out of court since 2010.
In June 2010, Apple sought to gain control of the iPad trademark by bringing a lawsuit against Proview Technology. Proview claimed to have registered the iPad trademark back in 2001. And now, the Chinese company said it still owns the trademark for the Chinese mainland. It had previously sold off the trademark for other parts of the world, to a company associated with Apple in 2006.
Wu Weiguang, associate IP & Law professor of Tsinghua University Law School said, "Copyright of trademarks is protected independently in different regions. There is definitely something unclear in the agreement between Apple and Proview. The reason Apple brought the lawsuit is because Proview was asking for a massive amount of compensation for what they see as copyright infringement."
However, the Intermediate People's Court in the southern boom town of Shenzhen rejected Apple's complaint against Proview in December 2011. Having lost its entitlement to the iPad trademark in China, Apple appealed to the Higher People's Court of Guangdong Province early this year.
Wu said, "Apple's second appeal is still under consideration, there is no final determination yet on who owns the copyright. If Apple loses again, it will face a multimillion-dollar fine, as high as three times the revenue from the actual product. But it is a complicated case because consumers believe that iPad belongs to Apple. A trademark is for the purpose of selling products. Because Apple has been so commercially successful with the iPad, ruling against Apple will be a great loss for both Apple and the consumers. The law will take consumers' rights into consideration as well. Without a final ruling, it's risky for the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Industry of Commerce to fine Apple."
Officials from the west district of the Bureau have confirmed their acceptance of the case, as one of the two apple stores in Beijing is located in the west district. The case is currently under investigation. The right to use the trademark iPad is crucial to Apple as it is under the process of opening more stores in China. Executives have said Apple has only scratched the surface in China in terms of sales.
(CNTV.cn February 7, 2012)