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Chinese iPad Trademark Battle Hits California Court 119

Posted by timothy
from the no-blinking-is-the-rule dept.
judgecorp writes "The Chinese company Proview is taking its trademark case against Apple's iPad to the Californian Courts. The company acknowledges it sold the IPAD name to Apple, but denies Apple has rights in China, and has accused Apple of underhand tactics." Says the article: "Any kind of ban in China would obviously be a major headache for Apple, since that is where most of the iPads are manufactured. If Proview is successful, it would effectively stop worldwide distribution of the tablet, and delay the launch of the iPad 3."
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Chinese iPad Trademark Battle Hits California Court

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  • by retroworks (652802) on Saturday February 25, 2012 @06:34PM (#39160653) Homepage Journal
    Ten years ago, Proview was one of the top 5 contract manufacturers, beside companies like Wistron, Foxconn, BenQ, Lenovo, etc. Where some (like Wistron's Acer and Foxconn and Lenovo) managed to grow larger than their contractors (Dell, Apple, Gateway, IBM, etc.), Proview was stuck in the CRT assembly market and never re-emerged. The company made a billion for awhile re-manufacruring and refurbishing old monitors for resale in India, Africa, etc., but that business was labelled "ewaste" and the company went bankrupt in 2007 I think. Now it's an angry wife and wants some of Apple hubbie's moola.
    • by Dahamma (304068)

      Wait, who grew larger than their contractors now?

      Those companies have a *lot* of employees, but when most of your employees make less than $300 a month that doesn't really make you "larger". In fact, that's kind of the point of why their contractors contract them, to outsource labor that would practically be indentured service in the parent company's home country...

      • by jcrb (187104)

        I think saying it would be practically indentured service is putting it too mildly. When they speak of how when Apple made a change shortly before product launch and the factory supervisors went around waking up the workers in the on site housing in the middle of the night giving them some tea and sending them to the factory floor to begin retooling in the wee hours of the am, that isn't the sort of treatment an indentured servant is subject to, that is the way you treat slave labor.

        Ok you wouldn't give sla

        • I think saying it would be practically indentured service is putting it too mildly. When they speak of how when Apple made a change shortly before product launch and the factory supervisors went around waking up the workers in the on site housing in the middle of the night giving them some tea and sending them to the factory floor to begin retooling in the wee hours of the am, that isn't the sort of treatment an indentured servant is subject to, that is the way you treat slave labor.

          Ok you wouldn't give slaves tea first, but other than that there is little difference that I can see.

          Your definitions of indenture and slavery are pretty funny. That is how you'd treat an indenture servant, you wake up anytime to work anywhere you want/need them. You feed them and pay a nominal fee, but they do as you command. Take the tea and the nominal salary and then you have slavery. It is no little difference even if argumentative eyes cannot see it.

          • by HiThere (15173)

            Traditionally the major difference between an indentured servant and a slave is that the indenture only lasted a certain amount of time. And you were no supposed to act in such a way as to permanently damage them. (But "damage" was subject to argument, and, as always, the courts tended to side with the wealthy party.)

            N.B.: Slavery also came in lots of gradations. E.g., Roman slaves could own property, and even sometimes buy their own freedom. This probably changed from time to time, and you didn't need

        • I think saying it would be practically indentured service is putting it too mildly. When they speak of how when Apple made a change shortly before product launch and the factory supervisors went around waking up the workers in the on site housing in the middle of the night giving them some tea and sending them to the factory floor to begin retooling in the wee hours of the am, that isn't the sort of treatment an indentured servant is subject to, that is the way you treat slave labor.

          Ok you wouldn't give slaves tea first, but other than that there is little difference that I can see.

          Not to say that they have the greatest of times over there, I have some measure of direct information this subject, however there is a huge difference between "low pay for long hours" and "slavery". Words mean something. Don't abuse them.

          You seem to be applying your Western worldview to a situation in which it doesn't apply. :-)

    • by siddesu (698447)
      Are you implying that it is wrong for a company in possession of valuable "intellectual property" to sue the thieves of the sad property and recover damages? What will happen if a Chinese company tries to sell something called "IPAD" in the US I wonder?
      • by jo_ham (604554) <joham999 AT gmail DOT com> on Saturday February 25, 2012 @11:35PM (#39161919)

        I don't know - are you implying that Apple stole the IP?

        They bought the rights to the trademark, and only later (years after the deal) has the original owner (who had full knowledge and participation in the original deal) decided that the rights don't cover China after all, right about the time when they're going through financial difficulty and need cash urgently. It's very convenient.

        • by siddesu (698447)

          Depends on how you're measuring it. Since at the moment there is at least one court in China that has decided that Apple is in the wrong, this is a very strong indication that Apple used "intellectual property" over there illegally, i.e. stole it.

          If and when this decision is reversed, I'll review my opinion on the matter ;)

          • by jo_ham (604554)

            Well, the story is pretty cut and dried - they bought the worldwide rights, and Proview's parent company signed off on that. Now they don't believe China is covered under "worldwide".

            Or rather, they don't consider that the subsidiary that sold the trademark to Apple's shell company had the authorisation to sell the Chinese rights, despite the parent being party to, and signing, the deal.

            Either way, it's something of a desperate grab, since they (Proview) have also already lost a court case on this in Hong K

            • Or rather, they don't consider that the subsidiary that sold the trademark to Apple's shell company had the authorisation to sell the Chinese rights, despite the parent being party to, and signing, the deal.

              This is not the argument in the U.S. case, which appears to be based on whether Apple fraudulently obtained the trademark by using a fictitious company. I have no idea how the courts in California treat something like that - techcrunch.com says "If true, this is a fairly serious offense, and Apple’s ownership of the trademark could be overturned." source [techcrunch.com]

              • by jo_ham (604554)

                In which case, pretty much every large company is in violation - shell companies for purchases are extremely common and have been for many, many years.

                It's a front line tactic for disguising your plans from competitors and the media. It's also perfectly legal.

          • at least one court in China that has decided that Apple is in the wrong, this is a very strong indication that Apple used "intellectual property" over there illegally

            I'm not saying the legal system of the UK, France etc are perfect and scrupulously honest, but I wouldn't kick a dog up the arse on the say-so of a fucking Chinese court.

            They're not much better than the East Texans.

            • by siddesu (698447)
              Last time I heard, the fucking Chinese courts are the only courts widely available in China. So, unscrupulous, dishonest and imperfect as they may be, they are still have the last word in this case.
              • You claimed that a Chinese court says X as incontrovertible proof of X. Not only is that an argument from authority, it's an argument from a known corrupt authority.

                That's like saying that 2 + 2 = 5, because the only calculators we have are faulty and they say so.

                And no, they don't have the last word. The rest of the world aren't bound by their decision.

  • Lawyers (Score:4, Insightful)

    by girlintraining (1395911) on Saturday February 25, 2012 @06:34PM (#39160655)
    Well... this is ironic. A company in China is suing one in the US for copyright infringement.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by stanlyb (1839382)
      In this case, i vote for the copyright. Let them eat the same cake. Is it not ironic, China to defend the copyright, and USA to ignore it!
    • Re:Lawyers (Score:5, Informative)

      by symbolset (646467) * on Saturday February 25, 2012 @06:39PM (#39160677) Journal
      Actually, trademark infringement, which makes it even more ironic.
    • Re:Lawyers (Score:4, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 25, 2012 @06:52PM (#39160743)
      OK, there are patents, there are copyrights, and there are trademarks. This is a trademark case. Let's be sure we get the nomenclature right because there are enough people confusing the three distinct parts of IP law as it is.
    • by Stan92057 (737634)
      You forgot to mention the lawyers have been outsourced for this suit lol
      • by 517714 (762276)
        And, if they (the lawyers) work it right, ProView will pay American lawyers twice what they get from Apple.
  • Translation (Score:2, Informative)

    by whisper_jeff (680366)

    Translation: Look, we know we sold you the trademark and you legally have the right to use it and all but we're failing as a company, about to be de-listed from the stock exchange and _REALLY_ need the money so would you just shut the hell up and hand over some cash.

    Yeah, a failing business certainly makes companies pull some stupid, desperate stunts...

  • by v1 (525388) on Saturday February 25, 2012 @06:39PM (#39160685) Homepage Journal

    Apple has a long-standing tactic of creating shells to do their brand and part buying, to make it difficult for the rumor mills and competitors to figure out what Apple is up to. And it sounds like they're complaining that they sold the iPad name to a company they didn't realize was buying for Apple.. (otherwise they'd have no doubt have tried to charge them more for it)

    Too bad. I have no pity for people that like to scheme with "you have more money, so I'm going to charge you more!" getting beat at their own game. These people are only upset at themselves for not recognizing the value of what they were selling, and want someone to cover their loss as a result.

    This is no different than a buyer trying to go after a seller for overcharging them for something after they realize they paid too much for it. Just the shoe's on the other foot.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Dak RIT (556128)

      Agreed. Either the trademark was worth $50,000 to you or it wasn't. It should not matter who was buying it. Nor is there anything illegal about creating a shell company to do acquisitions like this.

      They are trying to claim that they were told the name wouldn't be used in a similar market, but if that's the case they should have had that in writing in the contract.

      This case is not going to go anywhere.

    • by Solandri (704621) on Saturday February 25, 2012 @07:09PM (#39160805)
      AFAIK, all big companies do this. Microsoft did it when they bought a domain name from my friend. Harvard did it when they bought real estate to expand their campus.
    • Apple has a long-standing tactic of creating shells to do their brand and part buying, to make it difficult for the rumor mills and competitors to figure out what Apple is up to.

      Not only that, but China also has a legal culture where companies use shell companies to make purchases. According to Reuters [reuters.com]:

      Industry executives have said employing special-purpose entities to acquire trademarks is a frequent tactic in China.

      Not that this will prevent Proview from wanting to get more from the deal after-the-fact. I

    • This is no different than a buyer trying to go after a seller for overcharging them for something after they realize they paid too much for it. .

      People do this all the time if they can by returning the item. It's hard to determine the market value for a trademark so I'm not sure if it's feasible to find a middle ground between "gouging" and "giving it away", but Apple's tactics are fairly sleazy, like using a fake picture on a dating website.

    • Apple has a long-standing tactic of creating shells to do their brand and part buying, to make it difficult for the rumor mills and competitors to figure out what Apple is up to. And it sounds like they're complaining that they sold the iPad name to a company they didn't realize was buying for Apple.. (otherwise they'd have no doubt have tried to charge them more for it)

      Apple has an history of launching a product without getting getting all their trademark ducks lined up in a row. The trademark/company name "Apple" is one example. The Beatles owned that one for their holding company. The trademark "iPhone" is another example. Cisco owned that one for their internet phone.

      After the success of the iPod, Apple even began threatening anyone who started naming their product iAnything and demanded that the name and their associated domain names be surrendered to them. They just

      • by cgenman (325138)

        To be fair, Apple had the Apple trademark pretty clear and in the green WRT computers. Trademarks are only applicable in the realm that the business operates under. Apple Computers only operated in the realm of computers, and Apple Music only operated in the music realm. There was no need for legal resolution until Apple Computers started venturing into the realm of sound / quicktime / etc.

        iThing is problematic, in that it is a form of branding that only falls on the edge of trademark law. Hence, brandi

  • by theodp (442580) on Saturday February 25, 2012 @06:52PM (#39160747)

    BusinessWeek, Jan. 10, 2011: China Could Game the U.S. in Intellectual Property [businessweek.com]: Now China may do with intellectual property what it did with capitalism: adapt our system and beat us at our own game.

  • They sold the rights to the trademark to Apple. There is no problem manufacturing the product in China, as long as it's not sold in mainland China under that name. Apple does have rights to use the trademark elsewhere. This is purely a money grab by Proview.

    • Forgot the usual IANAL

    • by russotto (537200)

      They sold the rights to the trademark to Apple. There is no problem manufacturing the product in China, as long as it's not sold in mainland China under that name.

      Right; the article is totally off base about this stopping worldwide distribution. Even if they lost, they could continue to make the iPod in China for export only.

    • Correct, and Proview may have legally sold the rights in mainland China as well even though they are claiming otherwise. Of course given that that would be adjudicated in a Chinese court and Proview is a Chinese (read partially owned by the government and/or politically powerful people) company and Apple is not, it is likely that Apple will lose that case in court, no matter what the actual law says.
  • Of all nationalities, a CHINESE company is feeling bereft of its idea, and goes to court over it. It's funny to see the PRC govt. crack down on this as well, while systematically turning a blind eye to all other plagiariasm and IP theft that is the technological foundation of the nation.
    • by Trahloc (842734)
      Each sovereign nation dictates what value it gives to IP as it has no intrinsic value, ideas are free in every sense of the word in nature. China is just doing the pragmatic thing, ignore other sovereigns IP unless they have no choice, but they're going to protect their own because they can. Seriously, who would follow any form of IP law if they didn't *have* to? Maybe China will someday either become the next Disney for immortal IP extension or they'll become the example to follow for logical short term
    • by JBMcB (73720)

      Did you see pictures of the "iPad" ProVIEW developed? It's basically an opaque first-gen iMac with buttons on top of the screen. Similar down to where the speakers are located and the carry handle on the back.

  • just a quick adaptation of artwork on the device and the box.

    I don't care if the box reads 'Proview management pisses on their mothers graves®' in nice Chinese calligraphy. And that trademark isn't registered in China, at this time.

  • and apple will have a hard time selling itv in the uk. If they where to name there apple tv Itv.

    • by itsdapead (734413)

      and apple will have a hard time selling itv in the uk. If they where to name there apple tv Itv.

      So it's a good job that Apple haven't even confirmed that they are making a TV, let alone what it will be called.

      Also, the newspaper claim that ITV had contacted Apple to warn them off has been disputed [theverge.com] - although I believe it was briefly an issue some years ago when the Apple TV STB was first announced.

      Disregarding all that, yes, iTV would be a spectacularly bad name to use in the UK - even legally - because its a household name that has been associated with the second largest TV channel since the 1950s

  • by wisebabo (638845) on Saturday February 25, 2012 @07:49PM (#39160999) Journal

    I have no idea whether or not it constitutes fraud to hide behind a "shell" company (although common sense tells me it isn't fraud, I mean a small company could've bought the trademark and then Apple bought it from them what's the difference?).

    But I do know that Disney, when he was buying up (seemingly) most of Florida for Walt Disney WORLD used exactly this tactic to acquire the (tens of thousands?) of square miles of land he needed. He didn't want to repeat the fundamental mistake of building a theme park but not the land around it thus allowing (other) developers to get rich. (I understand that finally that Japanese American family that owned a strawberry farm right next to Disneyland finally sold, probably for a HUGE amount).

    I never heard of Disney getting sued let alone losing.

    So this, to me, doesnt seem to be fraud, not unless they lied about something. (I understand that Proview claimed the purchasers said they wouldn't have a competing product; well not only is the iPad completely different from what Proview made, but Proview hasn't made it for years).

  • Steve Jobs personally was the only one who knew how to operate the reality distortion field. Now he's gone, it's thrashing about wildly causing all manner of worldwide chaos, such as this zombie Chinese company thinking it still owns the rights to the name it sold to someone because, err, that someone since sold it to Apple.

  • There are two issues at hand : did Apple get the iPad trademark in China and is the buying through a shell company valid.

    It seem that Apple has no rights for the iPad brand in China (well, they got screwed over this one). If courts in china decide that Apple has no right to the iPad name in China, this could mean that production could be blocked in China... And producing the iPad somewhere else would mean (much) higher costs.

    There is also another problem : when Apple bought the name, it made up a name for a

    • by j-beda (85386)

      If courts in china decide that Apple has no right to the iPad name in China, this could mean that production could be blocked in China... And producing the iPad somewhere else would mean (much) higher costs.

      Not at all. There is absolutely nothing to prevent Apple from building a device in one country and selling it in another country under a different name. Yes, Apple does not want to market their tablet product in China without using the iPad brand, but even if they were to lose (or be ruled not to own) the iPad trademark in China, they could still build it there. The trademark is for *trade*, not manufacture. So they sell the applePad in China, and the iPad everywhere else. Gmail seemed to do ok in the UK as

    • It seem that Apple has no rights for the iPad brand in China

      If this was a case being decided in the U.S. about someone who bought the trademark from a U.S. company, and if statements by other posters here are correct, there is a good chance that Apple would win. According to another poster the Chairman of the company (subsidiary of the parent company) that sold the trademark to Apple was (and is?) the same person of the Chairman of the company (alternate subsidiary of the same parent company) that owned the trademark for use in mainland China. Additionally, yet anot

  • I'm gonna trademark iShoe, iRock, iCar, iFruit, iBeam, iGlasses, iSpy, iPatent... because these are all totally new original words and it's not like I'm trying to trademark a generic term at all.

    Whoops, please add iTrademark, iGeneric and iTerm to that list.

    Oops! iList!

    Damn - iOops.

    uhoh. iDamn

    will it never end?

    iEnd

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