back to article China pad peddler wins iPad name from Apple

Apple and its Chinese resellers are facing a wave of legal action in the wake of a court ruling which found that Cupertino does not own the trademark to the iPad name in China. The case stemmed from a $1.5bn claim by Hong Kong monitor manufacturer Proview International, which registered the IPAD trademark during an ill-fated …

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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Megaphone

    Goodness - it must come as a shock to the Chinese that IP infringement can go the other way around!

    Regardless of the merits of this particular case, it's amusing on a broad scale to see a Chinese company having to defend itself from IP issues out west. This is from a country where the auto manufacturers copy tooling down to the slightest detail - and even manage to copy *logos* wholesale (see BYD's old logo; it's basically a copy of the BMW logo with blue and white swapped and different letters).

    My company gets quite a few inquiries from China, both on the purchase and business partnership side, but I'm honestly reticent about even selling anything there. I haven't got the horsepower to fight it if someone does a single-white-female on me.

    Anyway, heading home, and it's cold. Time to put on my Gavin Klein gloves and warm up the Chery...

  2. Stu_The_Jock
    WTF?

    Much as it pains me to admit it . . .

    . . . I actually think Apple ar right in this one. I can't see how you can sell "Global rights" to something but retain those to an area containing something around 20% of the worlds population. If it was sold as global, it should MEAN global.

  3. PaulW

    Apple should show them!

    Apple should just pull all iPad sales out of China... that would show them!

    What? No? Really?

    So another long protracted legal battle (and this time in a system where only the government wins (as opposed to other countries where only the lawyers win))... **yawn**

  4. This post has been deleted by a moderator

  5. LarsG

    WHAT GOES AROUND

    comes around.

    1. spodula

      It depends

      on exactly what the contract says. "Global rights" is a journalistic soundbite, and the words may not appear in the contract at all.

      1. BitDr

        Global rights... like

        Sounds like the "unlimited dat data" plans that ISPs love to offer... you kn ow... the ones with the caps that limit them? BAH! A pox on all of their houses.

    2. Anonymous Cowerd
      Stop

      Apple would be fine ones to talk about the meaning of "global"

      They (and other big corps) always talk about the global economy when it comes to outsourcing manufacturing and jobs, but scream blue murder if I try to buy their product more cheaply in the global marketplace.

    3. Rob
      Go

      Contracts

      That's why contracts have caveats, means you can say things like 'Global' but then add 'with the exception of Chinese Territories'.

      I wonder if it was blind luck on the Chinese companies part, or some canny thinking that led to this moment.... "Yeah sell it for 35,000, cause we know we'll have a the ability to sting them later, once their product has gather momentum".

    4. James Micallef Silver badge
      Devil

      lawyers

      Apple is supposed to have some pretty good ones, they should have read the small print better. No sympathy

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: laywers

        To be fair, having negotiated with a few Chinese companies myself, would not be surprised if the phrase "Global rights, except for China" was written in disappearing ink.

        Maybe just slightly kidding on that, but the reality is making business over there is never as plain and simple as it sounds, especially when you have a company like Proview with offices both in mainland China and Taiwan.

    5. Ramazan
      Joke

      yeah, and pull all iPad manufacture

      out of China as well.

      1. gafisher

        But consider ...

        ... can Chinese manufacturers legally produce an export product which is, by Chinese law, illegally badged? (Yes, I know -- "only if it's handbags, clothing, wristwatches, etc. etc.")

        1. ThomH Silver badge

          They'd just move the manufacturing to Brazil

          That being where at least some of the current model iPhones are coming from. It also sounds like he owners of the mark want to do a deal, so the objective is to hurt Apple enough to get them to the table, not so much as to damage their prospects, so getting a Chinese manufacturing ban (whether explicitly or not) wouldn't be a smart move unless they're down to brinkmanship.

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Your knowledge of Mandarin is poor.

      外国人: foreigner characters for "outside" "country" "person"

      老外: foreigner (colloquial), characters for "experienced" "outside"

      洋鬼子: foreign devil (insult) - which is rather tame, compared to terms that some people in the West uses for other ethnic groups.

    7. King Jack

      The same way "unlimited" means limited and Free means with contract?

  6. Craigness
    Thumb Up

    Delighted

    Considering what Apple's business model has become, they will be delighted to see how crazy the Chinese can be when it comes to allowing the power of the state to be used to bully innovators into submission and hand the market to their competitors.

  7. DF118

    Ho ho ho

    Wonder how it feels to be on the receiving end of spurious and troll-like litigation?

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Proview's iPad was not a tablet

    Slight correction to the article, the iPad made by ProView back in 2000 was not a tablet at all, it was based on the National Geode platform and even packed a 15" CRT monitor!

    http://www.national.com/news/item/0,1735,521,00.html

    It was designed to be a cheap web terminal.

    Proview is also currently under bankruptcy and the 8 banks they owe money to have taken over.

    1. gafisher
      Stop

      "... and the 8 banks they owe money to have taken over."

      So legal representation won't be a problem. And banks don't let go quickly when the smell of money's in the air.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Yes

        But it also means whatever money comes out of this is going to the banks, not the company which trademarked the name in the first place.

        Now I don't know about you, but that doesn't feel right at all.

  9. Lance 3

    "It acquired the rights to the name in many countries between 2000 and 2004, and sold the “global trademark” to the name to Apple in 2006 for around $35,000"

    They sold the rights way too cheap. Apple would have paid much more then $35,000 for the name. After all, they could have just told them to "pick a new name, it isn't that hard."

  10. Arctic fox
    Happy

    I'm sorry, this post is somewhat incoherent but...............

    .............it is *so* difficult to write anything sensible when you are crying with laughter. What was that dear old Clive Dunn in his persona as Corporal Jones used to say? "They don't like it up'em Capt Mainwaring sir"!

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Scavengers

    So, they failed at making anything good themselves so now have to resort to suing Apple through a loophole (that Apple should have closed originally, of course)? Scumbags. I hope they are happy with their money. Who cares about contributing anything good to he world when you can take the money and run?

    1. Captain Save-a-ho
      Megaphone

      Just one word

      Douche

  12. John Bailey
    Coffee/keyboard

    Now remember kiddies...

    If round corners are enough to cause confusion, then Apple can't really use the iPad name, as it is far too similar to IPAD.

    And in this case.. It's a trade mark, so it really does go away if you don't defend it.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "and sold the “global trademark” to the name to Apple in 2006 for around $35,000, but later said this did not apply in China."

    so is this a few version of Global were China is not part of the global?? if so can we have Tibet back?

    1. gafisher

      It's not uncommon to differentiate between "international" and "domestic" rights, strange as it seems.

  14. Tony Paulazzo
    Devil

    Ha ha! - I would say to Apple, no problem, just change the name, but like any meme it'll probably also be the next (or previous) fifteen comments.

  15. MJG
    Thumb Up

    Hehe...

    That is all...

  16. Tchou
    Thumb Up

    Bwahahahhahahhahuhuhuhuuhuhuuuuuuuuhahhaaaaaaa!!!!

    sorry.

  17. Marvin the Martian

    How does Proview win?

    Blocking iPad sales adds what to their bottomline?

    I mean, except for the blackmail/extortion angle on selling the naming rights a second time to Apple. It's an irrational move if they are trying to give a benign explanation.

    1. Captain Save-a-ho

      Here's how they win

      They legally force Apple to halt sales until Apple agrees to terms on the copyright. If they can't come to terms, Apple has to change the product name.

    2. gafisher

      It's probably one of those obscure issues like, oh, say, blocking Samsung tablet sales.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Happy

    There is a certain delicious irony about this.....

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I hope

    they rinse Apple for every penny they can get. It's about time someone gave Cupertino a good legal bitchslap.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sang froid

    Biter bit....

  21. bob's hamster

    @Much as it pains me to admit it . . .

    yeah, but it's great seeing Apple getting spanked for a change.

    1. Sean Baggaley 1
      FAIL

      Right...

      ... because Apple *invented* the global IP protection laws and related treaties, and no other company on Earth has *ever* resorted to throwing lawyers at anything.

      As for renaming their product: Apple had to do just that—and did so without a squeak—with their Apple TV product. (The UK's commercial "ITV" television company has been around since the 1950s, so Apple knew well in advance that "iTV" was never going to be an option.)

      ProView's creditors clearly saw an opportunity for blackmail here, and they're running with it. As a Chinese company, they have the legal system on their side too. (Not least because the company's creditors are banks. Chinese banks. And therefore have the implicit support of the state.)

      You can laugh at Apple—"Ha ha! Look at how the mighty are, er, still spanking the crap out of all their rivals! And creaming off over 50% of the entire mobile phone market's profits! Yeah! Suck it up, Apple!"—or you can raise an eyebrow at the Chinese instead.

      Either ProView sold Apple "global" rights, or they didn't. Which was it? And what, exactly, do they think Apple will do if it turns out the rights sold by ProView's Taiwanese arm were done so under false pretences? (Hint: it'll involve lawyers. Lots of them. And Apple have plenty of money. Unlike ProView, which is bankrupt.)

      Worst case scenario: Apple could easily rename the iPad as the "[APPLE LOGO]Pad", as they did with their Apple TV, so ProView's creditors would simply lose even more money. Their only option would be to offer a sale of ProView's remaining assets—including their Chinese territory "iPad" name rights—for a song. Furthermore, Apple could also remove all their manufacturing from China. (That's unlikely in the short-term, but wages are rising in China, so it's quite likely in the medium term.)

      Apple haven't lost the war. They're just doing a recce.

  22. Tony Barnes
    Thumb Up

    $35k

    That was quite a sweet deal for Apple at the time - shame their lawyers didn't look at the small print.

    If they only bought non-chinese usage of the name, then they shouldn't use it in China, pretty simple really - and it's right that the company are sticking up for themselves, though I will admit, they are probably only doing it to access a great big settlement worth way more than they could have made from the brand.

  23. Brian Cockburn
    Thumb Up

    So surely Apple will now be sacking the legal team who wrote and negotiated the 'global rights' deal as it would appear that they have failed to grasp the meaning of the word 'global'!

  24. This post has been deleted by a moderator

  25. Ivan Headache

    apart from the first two letters

    What IP have Apple allegedly misappropriated from Proview?

    “Apple is such a Goliath and has a good image, so people wouldn’t imagine that Apple could possibly infringe on our intellectual property rights,” Xiao Caiyuan, a lawyer for Proview at Guangdong Guanghe law firm, told the Financial Times. “People always think it’s small companies infringing upon large companies’ IPR.”

    Surely this is a simple trade-mark issue - but then only assuming that Apple's iPad logo is identical (or similar) to the Proview logo.

    What IP is there in a name?

    1. Vic

      > What IP is there in a name?

      Trying bringing a product to market - even something entirely unrelated to computing in any way - with the name of "iPad" and let Apple's legal department educate you about that...

      Vic.

    2. chriswakey

      "What IP is there in a name?"

      Start a company called Microsoft, and see how far you get with "but it's only a name..."

      1. Dan 10

        yup

        Remember they sued a UK IT consultant called Mike Rowe Soft?! I realise he was in the Computing field, but he was also a software guy called Mike Rowe!

    3. Captain Save-a-ho

      Apart from lots of IP

      You can probably find an answer or two. Try here:

      http://www.google.com

    4. chr0m4t1c

      @Ivan

      You're confusing IP with patents, IP mainly covers four areas:

      Patents: What makes stuff work (like the formula of a food item or the operation of a machine).

      Trademarks: Signs that distinguish you brand or product to the market, like logos or words.

      Copyright: The automatic right that applies when a work is created.

      Designs: Protection of the way something looks, like the cut and shape of a fashion item or the shape of an aeroplane.

      I hope that's more useful than the other answers.

      1. Ivan Headache

        Thank you chr0m4t1c for understanding the difference between IP and trademarks.

        None of the other commenters had obviously read what I had quoted. Proview's lawyers are claiming that Apple are abusing their IP when in fact thay are abusing the trademark (yet to be proved).

        For those who posted above Microspoft is not IP. It is a company name, registered as a company name. Microsoft's IP is in its products - not its name.

  26. TeeCee Gold badge
    Facepalm

    Hmm, shades of Rolls-Royce.

    Who was it who sold off Rolls-Royce twice? They sold the whole concern to VW, who failed to notice the bit in the small print that said "except the Rolls-Royce name and branding". Then they sold the badge to BMW.

    This is why VW make Bentleys and why Royces are made at Goodwood rather than in Crewe these days.

    I suspect a cunning use of translation from Chinese in the area of "Global rights" / "Overseas rights" behind Proview's clever reworking of this old English con. If so, this would make the Taiwanese situation interesting as, within China, that would be legally considered part of China. Thus Apple could be successfully sued in China for using a brand in Taiwan that they have the rights to under Taiwanese legislation. What fun!

  27. Keep Refrigerated
    Facepalm

    Apple deserve to be taken to the cleaners here

    Thinking of a name for your new groundbreaking product in a market that has a dearth of competition?

    Instead of thinking up something original and free, go to another company and negotiate to purchase the right to use a name they came up with?

    Who in their right mind gets involved with other people's trademarks unless by accident and compelled to by a court?

    They must have seen Jobs coming a mile off...

    Reminds me of a story about a bloke who went to buy a car with his wife, for his wife. She picked a car she quite fancied so he said to her "Now let me do the talking." On meeting the salesman, she pipes up and goes "It's that one, the blue one, I want that one!"

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Apple will get the last laugh

    China is bankrupt, every state is like a Greee waiting to happen. They will plunge the world into GFC2 the pain of which the world has not seen. One company kept selling and growing inthe PC space while the entire industry went down the toilet. Which one?

    1. Local Group
      Childcatcher

      If China is bankrupt...

      you, Sir, reside in the Marshalsea.

    2. Cliff

      Bankrupt?

      I would love to see your sources on that one! Unless you're referring to China owning thousands of billions of dollars worth of the US government bonds, which let's face it, are no longer the premium safehouse they once were. Yes, I think the US will be defaulting on loans to China long before anything the other way round.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Proview has made it clear that it’s willing to negotiate"

    ...how surprising. What else are they going to do? They make Apple stop iPad sales to get a better position in their negotiations, cash more money, and in the end Apple will keep that name and can continue selling anyway. No rocket science there.

    1. Local Group
      Childcatcher

      No rocket science there...

      just garden variety legerdemain of raising a sum of $35,000 (referred to as 5 figures) into a much tidier sum of let's say 6 or 7 figures.

      Do you, Mr. AC, happen to know how high Apple was willing to go to get that Trade Mark in 2006?

      Of course you don't.

      Well, perhaps if Apple's lawyers hadn't sought the lowest possible price for the rights to the name 'iPad,' Proview might have a less adversarial attitude today. Did Proview's lawyers see the Apple lawyers fist bumping while waiting for the elevator to go to the bar and celebrate the fleecing of Proview?

      And the Apple lawyers and translators probably missed the little curlycue tail on one of the Chinese characters which means "worldwide, excluding the middle kingdom."

      The bottom line, though, is on August 10, 2011, Apple had the largest market capitalization of any corporation in the world. Are you troubled that the largest corporation in the world thought it bought something for $35k and now might have to pay more?

      Or are you really bothered by the fact it was was a Chinese entity that did this horriber thing?

  30. Local Group
    Holmes

    Just in from the HMS Victory via semaphore

    "The court rejected the lawsuits, stating that even as Apple had signed a contract for the trademark rights, it had done so only through Proview’s Taiwan subsidiary. Proview’s Shenzhen-based company did not attend any trademark negotiations, nor did it formally transfer the trademark rights. As a result, the contract is not legally binding, according to the court."

    http://www.macworld.com/article/164096/2011/12/apple_faces_legal_threat_to_ipad_trademark_in_china.html

    How could such an intelligent bevy of boffins get this one so wrong?

  31. Local Group

    Did Apple buy the Brooklyn Bridge?

    An iBridge.

    It'll take some getting used to.

    I better wait for Anonymous Coward's pronouncement.

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    what I think apple should do...

    Is buy the company and terminate the legal department, and all of the senior managment as viciously as is legal, and integrate the rest of the company into Apple

    1. Local Group
      Childcatcher

      Good Idea

      If the Chinese Government approves the sale.

      And if ProView's owners -- are they Chinese Banks? -- don't want an arm and a leg (9 or 10 figures) for the corp.

      It will difficult to ask China to obey our piracy laws if we don't obey their ruling on trade mark ownership.

      This ruling doesn't just cover iPads sold in China; it involves every tablet sold with the infringed name iPad on it.

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Big Brother

    1984 ...

    Apple now understands what it is like to work in an environment that its commercial depicted.

  34. Local Group
    Childcatcher

    The Blunder Hall of Fame

    The couple of hundred millions that is being extracted from Apple's wallet so expertly with ivory chop sticks doesn't begin to compare to IBM's boob, when it gave Microsoft the franchise to print money on every PC anybody, anywhere made.

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