John Paczkowski

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Apple: China’s Proview Trying to Weasel Out of iPad Trademark Deal

Proview Technology, the cash-strapped Chinese company scrapping with Apple over the iPad trademark, best steel itself for a long, grueling legal battle.

Cupertino is adamant that it legally owns the iPad mark throughout Asia, and that Proview is doing nothing more than squeezing it for additional money to use the trademark in China, despite the fact that it has already purchased those rights.

“We bought Proview’s worldwide rights to the iPad trademark in 10 different countries several years ago,” Apple spokeswoman Kristin Huguet told AllThingsD. “Proview refuses to honor their agreement with Apple in China, and a Hong Kong court has sided with Apple in this matter.”

And that does appear to be the case. In July, Judge Hon Poon ruled that there was more than enough evidence to suggest that Proview has breached its agreement with Apple by refusing to transfer to it the iPad trademark in China.

“The conduct of all the defendants demonstrate that they have combined together with the common intention of injuring Apple … by acting in breach of the agreement,” Judge Hon Poon wrote. “Proview Holdings, Proview Electronics and Proview Shenzhen, all clearly under [Proview CEO Yang Rongshan's] control, have refused to take any steps to ensure compliance with the agreement so that the China Trademarks are properly assigned or transferred to [Apple]. Instead, they attempt to exploit the situation as a business opportunity for the Proview Group by seeking an amount of US $10 million from Apple.”

But that’s not how Proview sees the situation.

According to Proview, Apple’s agreement is with its Proview Electronics affiliate, which never controlled the iPad trademark for the Chinese market. It claims that Proview Technology, another affiliate, holds the rights to that mark to this day. Hard to believe that Apple would purchase the Asian rights to the iPad trademark without doing proper due diligence, but that is essentially what Proview is arguing.

And, of course, it is eager to sell that last mark at the highest possible price, now more than ever, as it has fallen on hard financial times.

As Yang told the FT back in 2012, “It is arrogant of Apple to just ignore our rights and go ahead selling the iPad in this market, and we will oppose that. Besides that, we are in big financial trouble and the trademarks are a valuable asset that could help us sort out part of that trouble.”

Hard not to read that as opportunistic. That said, it’s important to remember that Proview sold the global iPad trademark to Apple’s agent for about $55,104 in 2006, and since 2010 has likely been kicking itself for selling what is now a highly valuable mark for such a pittance.

Quite the rat’s nest here. And it’s only getting worse. Proview has now filed a request with Chinese Customs to block the import and export of iPads on trademark grounds.

As of this writing, Proview and CEO Yang Rongshan had not responded to requests for comment.

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Another gadget you don’t really need. Will not work once you get it home. New model out in 4 weeks. Battery life is too short to be of any use.

— From the fact sheet for a fake product entitled Useless Plasticbox 1.2 (an actual empty plastic box) placed in L.A.-area Best Buy stores by an artist called Plastic Jesus