The Chinese government regards Shenzhen Proview Technology as the rightful owner of the iPad trademark, a top Chinese official said yesterday, suggesting that US giant Apple Inc may lose its right to use the name on the Chinese mainland.
Fu Shuangjian, deputy chief of the State Administration for Industry and Commerce, told reporters in Beijing yesterday that under Chinese law, Shenzhen Proview Technology is the lawful registered owner of the trademark.
Fu's comment comes amid an ongoing legal battle between Proview Technology, based in the southern city of Shenzhen, and United States-based Apple over the right to use the iPad name on China's mainland. Both companies claim they own the trademark.
Fu said the dispute between Apple and Shenzhen Proview was going through a judicial process.
"As the case has a huge impact and the final judgment of the court will directly affect the ownership to the iPad trademark, the administration will handle the case very carefully," Fu said.
Meanwhile, the Higher People's Court of Guangdong Province in southern China is seeking to arrange a settlement, said Ma Dongxiao, a lawyer for Proview.
The court on February 29 began hearing Apple's appeal against a lower court ruling that favored Proview in the dispute.
"It is likely that we will settle out of court. The Guangdong Higher People's Court is helping to arrange it and the court also expects to do so," Ma told The Associated Press on Monday.
The Shenzhen Special Zone Daily cited the court's deputy chief judge, Xu Chunjian, as saying last week that the court was working toward a settlement.
Proview, a financially troubled maker of computer displays and LED lights, says it registered the iPad trademark more than a decade ago. Apple says Proview sold its worldwide rights to the iPad trademark in 2009, though the registration was never transferred for China's mainland.
"Actually Proview always expected to settle out of court from the beginning," Ma said. "I don't know if Apple has changed its attitude, but I believe that the key point now is the price."
In 2000, Proview launched its own IPAD, or Internet Personal Access Device, but it was not a hit in the market. Ten years later Apple launched its hugely popular iPad.
Proview says Apple intentionally misled it when it bought iPad trademarks through a special purpose company called IP Application Development Ltd that concealed the fact it was acting on Apple's behalf.
Meanwhile, Yan Xiaohong, deputy director of the National Copyright Administration, told reporters yesterday that they had received complaints from writers and publishers saying their works were being sold illegally on Apple's online store.
Yan said the administration's preliminary investigation has showed that the writers' complaints were justified and he urged Apple to pay heed to them.
The company should delete unauthorized copies from the online store as soon as possible after receiving the complaints or it would be held responsible under Chinese law, Yan told a news conference.
By the end of 2011, China had more than 5.51 million successfully registered trademarks and received more than 9.71 million applications for trademarks, both numbers being the highest in the world, said Tian Lipu, director of the National Copyright Administration yesterday.