Apple Accuses Proview of Lying About Chinese iPad Trademark

Apple in ChinaApple has accused Proview Technology of making false and misleading statements to the press about its trademark dispute with Apple in China. In a letter sent to the company’s chairman, Apple said that Proview was damaging Apple’s business in China, and demanded that the firm stop misrepresenting facts of the case to Chinese media.

Proview Technology owned (or owns, depending on who you ask) the trademark to the term “iPad,” a trademark it registered in China and other Asian countries in 2000. Apple purchased those rights from a Taiwan-based subsidiary of Proview Technology, a purchase that Apple believed included rights to the name in China, but Proview claims that the Chinese rights still belong to it.

The case has been fought in China through both the courts and through local law enforcement agencies. A Chinese court has sided with Proview, and some iPads were confiscated in at lease one Chinese city. Proview had also apparently been talking to the local press, and Apple is threatening legal action if that continues.

Specifically, the letter, which was posted to ScribD by ComputerWorld, accuses Proview of making four “false and misleading” statements, including:

  • that Apple’s affiliate “mistakenly” transacted with Proview Electronics Co., Ltd. (“Proview Taiwan”, another Proview subsidiary) who did not own the trademarks for IPAD in mainland China;

  • that “Proview Shenzhen had no knowledge of the trademark transfer”;

  • that Apple’s affiliates dealt only with representatives of Proview Taiwan who “had nothing to do with Proview Shenzhen”; and

  • that the IPAD trademarks in mainland China “were not included in the package of trademarks under consideration” in the sale.

Apple said that not only are these statements untrue, that they are contradicted by documented evidence that Proview is well aware of. Even more interestingly, Apple’s letter said that these documents weren’t discovered in time for the court case that was already decided by the Intermediate People’s Court of Shenzhen.

Apple said it was appealing the ruling based on these new documents, which include emails establishing that Proview was aware of the negotiations and that rights to the iPad name in mainland China were included in those negotiations. Other emails supposedly prove that Proviews mainland China executives were part of the process of those negotiations.

“We remind you that there has not been any final determination or final court judgment from the Appellate Court in the P.R.C. concerning the ownership of the two IPAD trademarks in dispute,” Apple said in its letter. “Therefore, you and Proview Shenzhen together with your various agents or lawyers should respect Chinese law and the Chinese court proceedings. Accordingly, it is inappropriate to release information contrary to the facts to the media, especially when such disclosures have the effect of wrongly causing damage to Apple’s reputation. You will be held legally responsible for such activity.”

The letters suggest that Apple is playing this fight hard and fast, and that the company intends to deal with Proview aggressively. Proview has asked for damages as high as US$1.6 billion for Apple’s infringement, and is currently trying to get a ban on imports of the device into mainland China.