Apple Settles iPad Trademark Dispute

by Jordan Richardson on July 3, 2012

Apple has sprung $60 million to pay Shenzhen Proview Technology in order to end a drawn-out trademark dispute over the iPad.

In 2009, Apple says they bought the rights to the name “iPad” from Proview Technology. According to Chinese authorities, however, the rights were never transferred. In December, a Chinese court said that Proview Technology still owned the iPad name. From there, the company asked Chinese authorities to start removing iPads from Chinese store shelves. This hampered the launch of the new iPad and probably impacted Apple’s sales in a key global market.

Indeed, China is the second-largest market for Apple products behind the United States of America. Much of Apple’s growth comes from China, too, so the market is critical and any delay in putting out the latest and greatest could prove detrimental to maintaining that share.

The case was settled by the Higher People’s Court of Guangdong province and will remove any obstacles to Apple selling its popular tablet computers in China.

“The settlement is great news for Apple,” said Teck-Zhung Wong, analyst with technology research firm IDC. “It just allows them to get on with business and stop being distracted. The new iPad has been so late to the China market that if they drag it any longer, Apple will stand to lose quite a bit more.”

Proview Technology apparently held out hope for more than the $60 million settlement, but the company is in debt and “felt pressured” to settle. Lawyer Xie Xianghui said that Proview was potentially going for a figure somewhere in the $400 million neighbourhood but backed off. Even with the settlement money from Apple, Proview may still be looking at bankruptcy.

Proview Technology registered the iPad trademark in China in 2001. Apple bought the rights from an affiliate in Taiwan for around $55,000 and that was supposed to cover various countries, but that was not the case and the Chinese company said that Apple dealt with only one Proview Technology – not all of them.

Obviously Apple can afford the relatively paltry settlement and won’t have much to say about it, but the case does stand as a sort of tale of two companies. One, Proview Technology, is struggling as a subsidiary of LCD screen maker Proview International Holdings Ltd. The other, Apple, has dominated global markets and boasts over $100 billion in cash and securities. Despite Proview’s holding of the iPad trademark, the name really means nothing to them and the money may make at least a small difference. Such is life in the fast lanes of trademark disputes.

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