Apple spends a lot of time in the legal spotlight and this time they actually lost. It would appear that Chinese courts are saying that Apple cannot actually own the iPad trademark in their country because a lesser known and not terribly successful Taiwanese company, Proview Technology (Shenzhen), has registered IPAD trademarks dating back several years before Apple created, named and released their tablet.
Now Apple has to decide what to do about the ruling. With over 1,000 resellers of Apple products located across China, this growing Asian market is becoming much more significant.
So what options are available to Apple? It looks like they may be able to buy their way into being able to use the iPad label, but with a price-tag of over US $1.6 billion dollars that means a whole lot of sales required to offset that investment.
So this is where trademark law seems so very random and ridiculous to me. Certainly the first person with an idea should get a certain amount of credit and recognition, but certainly those who make it famous should be given a different consideration. At a minimum you would think they could use the word iPad if it was always used and displayed in a phrase such as “Apple’s iPad” or “Apple iPad Tablet”.
A representative at Proview was quoted as saying they hoped the results of their lawsuit would make negotiations with Apple easier. A comment like that makes me wonder exactly what they are after (perhaps that is a ridiculous question, clearly money is the end-goal –but just how much do they think is reasonable?).
Apparently what is true is that Proview tried to sell the iPad name to Apple years ago in about 2006. The problem is that 2006 not only pre-dates the iPad, it is also not entirely clear whether that deal would have included the requisite rights to use the name in China even if Apple had taken them up on it.
For North American outsiders, China appears to be a country rich with counterfeiters and obstacles galore. With all things considered, one has to wonder whether it is a market Apple will see as a worthwhile target for their time and money.
So far Apple has confirmed the existence of this lawsuit but hasn’t commented any further.
[via Financial Times]