John Paczkowski

Recent Posts by John Paczkowski

Apple vs. Proview: We Lawyers Have a Word for Cases Like This, and It Starts With “Cluster”

The hearing that could determine ownership of the iPad trademark in China kicked off this morning with a broad rehash of the battle we’ve seen play out in the media over the past few weeks: Apple arguing it bought Proview Technology’s worldwide rights to the iPad trademark several years ago, and Proview claiming it bought them from an affiliate that didn’t own them.

“Apple meticulously formed a band of lawyers to buy the trademark, but the transacted amount was given to Taiwan’s Proview, not Shenzhen’s Proview,” Proview’s attorneys told the court, adding that the iPad trademark therefore still belongs to Proview’s Shenzhen unit, its claimed original owner.

The problem with that argument, as Apple’s legal team was quick to point out, is that negotiations over the iPad trademark were authorized by Rowell Yang, chairman of Proview Shenzhen, and the actual transfer agreement was signed by Ray Mai, head of Shenzhen’s legal department.

Proview’s explanation for this, according to its lawyers: “Personnel may have multiple roles or titles within the group, but the question is in what capacity were they acting?

And that really gets to the heart of the issue here: Did Apple buy the iPad China trademark from a company that didn’t own it?

“The ownership of the trademark when it was allegedly sold is not really in doubt; it was owned by Proview-Taiwan,” Dan Harris, an intellectual-property attorney at Harris & Moure, explains. “The real question is whether Proview-Shenzhen authorized Proview-Taiwan to sell the iPad trademark to Apple.”

Because if it is determined that it didn’t, Apple is in quite a bind. “The value of iPad’s trademark rocketed after Apple launched the tablet computer in January 2010,” the company’s legal team told the court. “In the eyes of the consumer, iPad is associated with Apple. If the court decides that Proview wins the case, then this will confuse consumers and hurt their interests.”

And it will force Apple to negotatiate a new deal with its cash-strapped opponent, undoubtedly a very expensive one.

Which is exactly what Proview is seeking here.

Said Harris, in a separate interview with AllThingsD, “We lawyers have a word for cases like this: Clusterf–k. The facts are going to keep coming out, and nobody is going to look very pure as they do, and this just strikes me as the kind of case that both sides are going to want to settle.”

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