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Apple Could Lose $1.6 Billion In iPad Lawsuit 286

Posted by Soulskill
from the or-could-stall-in-court-indefinitely dept.
redletterdave writes "Proview Technology, which currently uses the 'iPad' name on several of its products including computer monitors, stands to win up to $1.6 billion and an apology from Apple for allegedly infringing upon Proview's trademarked name to use on its bestselling tablet. Proview International, which owns subsidiaries Proview Technology in Shenzhen and Proview Electronics in Taiwan, originally registered the name 'iPad' in Taiwan in 2000 and mainland China in 2001. Proview eventually sued Apple in 2011, and even though the Cupertino-based company retaliated with a counter-suit of its own, Apple lost the case in local Chinese courts. Depending on the court's findings, Apple could be fined anywhere from $38 million to the $1.6 billion that Proview is seeking. In addition to the money, Proview also wants Apple to apologize. 'We have prepared well for a long-term legal battle,' said one of Proview's lawyers."
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Apple Could Lose $1.6 Billion In iPad Lawsuit

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  • And Apple's Worried? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by eagle1361 (2557464) on Tuesday February 07, 2012 @03:54PM (#38959347)
    Not that $1.6 billion would hurt them much, but all they'd have to do is threaten to stop selling the iPad in China. At that point, the government will just make Proview go away.
    • by iluvcapra (782887)

      Hey that's a lot of money. Just $97 billion to go :P

    • by Tharsman (1364603)

      Selling? They would lose money doing that. Now, they can threaten to stop building them in China. That's a threat.

      But let’s be honest: this was an Apple fuckup. They have the resources to search these names in all nations and trademark them in time, if taken anywhere; they can just use a different name in the country or pick a name that has not been used.

      That being told, perhaps it would be cheaper for Apple to buy out this company than to pay up 1.6 billion.

      • by jythie (914043) on Tuesday February 07, 2012 @04:02PM (#38959467)
        They did search. And paid the company for use of the name. The Chinese company seems to be trying to double dip.
        • by cyfer2000 (548592)
          One hint, Proview International got big money trouble recently.
        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward

          They did search. And paid the company for use of the name. The Chinese company seems to be trying to double dip.

          Nonsense. Apple only paid for the use of the trademark within Taiwan. They didn't negotiate for its use in the rest of the world.

        • ROC vrs PRC (Score:5, Interesting)

          by ZombieBraintrust (1685608) on Tuesday February 07, 2012 @04:31PM (#38959825)
          There are two companies. They paid for use of the trademark from one based out of Tiawan. The Chinese arm of the company is filing the lawsuit. Not sure witch is the parent company. I would assume the Tiawan based one since that is who Apple paid. China does not reconize Tiawan as a seperate country. So there may be some politics involved in this dispute.
          • Re:ROC vrs PRC (Score:5, Informative)

            by amicusNYCL (1538833) on Tuesday February 07, 2012 @05:02PM (#38960219)

            The Chinese arm of the company is filing the lawsuit. Not sure witch is the parent company. I would assume the Tiawan based one since that is who Apple paid.

            Both companies are subsidiaries of a larger parent company.

            Proview International, which owns subsidiaries Proview Technology in Shenzhen and Proview Electronics in Taiwan, originally registered the name 'iPad' in Taiwan in 2000 and mainland China in 2001.

            Apple bought the trademark from Proview Electronics, and they are now being sued by Proview Technology. Both companies are owned by Proview International, which is based in Hong Kong.

      • by cyfer2000 (548592)
        Proview International is a Hongkong company, if apple threatens to stop building them in China, it won't hurt Proview International much but it will hurt apple a lot.
        • by Dahamma (304068) on Tuesday February 07, 2012 @06:04PM (#38960863)

          It's not about hurting Proview, it's about hurting China's economy. If Apple threatens to move all of their device production out of China, that's incentive not to rule against Apple (or at least not rule on the order of $1B+). Some estimates say Apple subcontractors in China employ over 500,000 people building Apple products...

      • by crutchy (1949900)

        Now, they can threaten to stop building them in China. That's a threat.

        yeah, cos that would reduce the competition for the local chinese ripoffs

      • by mosb1000 (710161) <mosb1000@mac.com> on Tuesday February 07, 2012 @04:12PM (#38959589)

        They are in bankruptcy right now. They're betting on this to save them. Bail them out essentially. Apple already bought the trademark from them (under another name), so I'm not even sure how they could have possibly lost this lawsuit.

        • by Dahamma (304068)

          It's the Chinese government playing politics. The same government that does pretty much nothing to stop Chinese manufacturers from violating foreign company copyrights and trademarks is now claiming Apple is violating some bankrupt company's (who they already paid for the use anyway) trademark? They are trying to make it look like the "big American company" is just as guilty as they are for condoning trademark infringement...

      • Selling? They would lose money doing that. Now, they can threaten to stop building them in China. That's a threat.

        It's not much of a threat - there's nowhere else on earth that could build them for the same cost. Raising the retail price of an iPad to $999 would severely slow sales.

        If Apple loses the suit they would either need to (a) pay up; or (b) move all manufacturing of Apple products, including iPhone and iPod, outside of China, to stop the unsold product from being seized for lack of payment.

      • by SEE (7681)

        Selling? They would lose money doing that. Now, they can threaten to stop building them in China. That's a threat.

        And since the A5 is made in Texas, it's actually possible for Apple to make such a decision stick, rather than have China respond to the blackmail threat by ordering the factories keep making iPads anyway.

    • by sideslash (1865434) on Tuesday February 07, 2012 @03:58PM (#38959413)
      I don't think directly or indirectly threatening the Chinese government is in Apple's best interests. All the government would have to do is threaten to shut down Apple's Chinese manufacturing facilities and they'd be back to square one. Given how defensive Apple is about their own trademarks, I do find the whole spectacle amusing now that they've been caught in hypocrisy on that count. With that said, I'm sure they'll work out a backroom deal of some kind, everybody will save face in some way, and life will go on.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by BasilBrush (643681)

        There's no hypocrisy. Apple bought the iPad trademark from a Proview subsidiary. I don't know Chinese law, but it's difficult to see how Proview can now sue for it's misuse.

        Prediction: Apple will win at appeal.

        • by poetmatt (793785)

          Was the subsidiary the owner of the trademark?

          • Morally a parent company ought to be responsible for the actions of it's subsidiaries. Whether Chinese law follows morality in that regard I wouldn't know.

        • by Americano (920576) on Tuesday February 07, 2012 @04:56PM (#38960159)

          Here's [electronista.com] more.

          At the core of the dispute is a 2006 agreement in which Apple bought the iPad trademark from Taiwan's Proview Electronics for $55,000, by way of a front business known as IP Application Development. Proview says, though, that Apple didn't win the rights to the Chinese trademark, since those were owned by Proview Technology in Shenzhen, a subsidiary of the Hong Kong-based Proview International.

          So it sounds like Apple perhaps fucked up and they didn't secure the rights in China like they thought they were, or the Taiwanese company deliberately misled them, waiting until they were in financial trouble to cash in this particular chip, and say "Surprise, you didn't buy the rights in China like you thought."

          Whichever it is, I suspect it'd be easier and cheaper for Apple to simply buy the company and shutter it than it would be to pay 1.6 billion dollars and lose the right to use the name. Realistically, I think you can expect the companies to settle with Apple being granted the rights to the name, and Proview getting a nice chunk of cash for it.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by santax (1541065)
      Lol... apple would (and does) lick many a heel just to be able to get those slaves there... Apple wants cheap slaves. China provides them. Apple will have to comply. And not don't forget, the Chinese market is a bit bigger than US and EU combined. China doesn't give a fuck about apple. Sure, it's nice for them they are there, but seriously apple doesn't make a different for China. China however, makes all the difference for apple. Yeps, apple is screwed and rightfully so. Apple hates copyright infringment,
    • by thegarbz (1787294) on Tuesday February 07, 2012 @04:29PM (#38959789)

      I don't think you quite know how the Chinese work. This is a country which turns a blind eye to entire corporations being cloned including multi story buildings and factories being made for phantom companies. Companies such as NEC existed in China for years unnoticed until NEC in America started getting warranty calls for DVD players, a product it doesn't make but none the less had its logo on it.

      If Apple pulled out of China ... nothing changes. iPads would still be available on the grey market just like every other product. Now if Apple pulled PRODUCTION out of China that may be a different story entirely, but the reality is they don't have anywhere else to go, and this is not a decision a company can make on the short term.

      Corporations lobby and threaten, that's about the extent of power over governments. In the west this lobbying works worryingly well.

    • by g0bshiTe (596213)
      It's China most likely the iPads sold there are counterfeit to begin with.
    • by Ihmhi (1206036)

      Not that $1.6 billion would hurt them much, but all they'd have to do is threaten to stop making the iPad in China. At that point, the government will just make Proview go away.

      FTFY.

      The loss of jobs would be immense. If Apple stopped selling the iPad legitimately, it's not as if Chinese people wouldn't be able to get a bootleg version of it. Hell, China has made a knockoff Apple Store! [wsj.com]

    • Not that $1.6 billion would hurt them much, but all they'd have to do is threaten to stop selling the iPad in China. At that point, the government will just make Proview go away.

      Not in anyone's wildest delusions would that be the outcome. A much more likely outcome would be the Chinese government telling Apple to not let the door hit them on the ass on the way out, and just formally authorize the sale and distribution of iPad clones in China.

      Apple has exactly zero leverage against China, since the Chinese hold all of Apple's manufacturing capacity, and have the will and capability of cloning anything Apple makes.

  • surprise... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jythie (914043) on Tuesday February 07, 2012 @03:59PM (#38959423)
    Ah.. ha.. an American company lost in Chinese court to a Chinese company? A Chinese company that Apple paid for the trademark... yeah... never saw that one coming...
  • Chinese gov. backs the theft of IP, reselling of copies, etc. Yet, all that happens is hand slapping. NOW, Apple could get 1.6 BILLION dollar over the use of the name. Amazing. Who knows. PERHAPS, it will lead to western, esp. American, companies re-thinking what they are doing in China.
  • by PickyH3D (680158) on Tuesday February 07, 2012 @04:01PM (#38959453)

    Apple supposedly purchase the trademark in 2009 from Proview, but it appears that they may have bought it from their Taiwanese counterparts [geek.com], which the Chinese portion is using to its advantage. China being China, they are choosing to side with the Chinese-based business.

    If China awards the company anything remotely close to $1 billion, then I hope Apple pulls out of China. Wishful thinking as it is, it would be interesting to watch. I also hope all such companies fail, but that's pretty obvious.

    • Anything happening in China is considered bias by us nowaday, while at the same time we blame them for ignoring IP. But imagine if Proview has a US subsidiary that owns the trademark and the Apple lawyers forgot to work out the agreement with the US subsidiary, don't you think the US subsidiary would sue and win too? It is $1.6 billion; everyone would try to look for loophole with such huge amount, regardless if it is based in China, Taiwan, US, or fantasyland.

      • by PickyH3D (680158)

        I disagree because the comparison is not really the same thing.

        The Chinese Proview is claiming that the Taiwanese Proview did not represent them in the business deal, and they therefore could not sell the rights to the Chinese trademark. That is different from saying that Apple, or any other company, forgot to work out the agreement. They were told one thing by the business, and then the other arm of the business is abusing the politics of the situation. Proview-China is hoping that a mainland China court w

    • Isn't the summary missing something?

      Judging from the number of people who are (hypocritically) calling Apple hypocrites for not doing any searches for the trademark in question... yes, the summary is definitely not doing its job of educating anybody around here.

      Then again, a lousy summary is only half the problem...

    • Why would Apple pull out of China over this? Do you think Apple would remove its headquarters from the US because a patent troll is going after it?

      Worst case would be that Apple stop selling the iPad or other Apple products from China. They are still allowed to use Chinese factories to build iPads and ship them overseas.

      • If Apple stopped selling iPads in China, it wouldn't stop "iPads" being sold in China. It will only stop Apple seeing any profit from the iPad sales.
  • (IP: Intellectual Property not Internet Protocol).

    I don't know the particulars of this case but, assuming Apple IS violating their trademark, what are the chances that this will cause other Chinese companies to stop infringing on foreign trademarks, copyrights and patents?

    If this really changed the way Chinese companies legally did business (and stopped their alleged illegal theft of IP through industrial espionage) then 1.6 Billion would be a small price to pay. Way to take it on the chin for America, App

  • by Sir_Eptishous (873977) on Tuesday February 07, 2012 @04:05PM (#38959509) Homepage
    all your iPad are belong to us!
  • by Lashat (1041424) on Tuesday February 07, 2012 @04:11PM (#38959571)

    $1.6 Billion payment to Proview = Chinese Government Kickback.

    Of course my babelfish may be horked.

  • What would it cost to buy the company, if it wasn't for this law suit? I doubt it'd be much more than a few million dollars if they are near bankruptcy?
  • by robbak (775424) on Tuesday February 07, 2012 @08:18PM (#38962003) Homepage

    Surely, if Proview is established as the owner of the trademark within China, then the iPads being produced in China by Foxcon are counterfeit items. Could that be the basis for an injunction banning the export of these items?

    That would be an excessively heavy hammer to bash an enormous settlement out of Apple.

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