Apple Faces Proview Lawsuit in U.S. Court

Apple's battles over the "iPad" trademark with Chinese firm Proview escalated to a new level with the latter’s California lawsuit.

Apple is being sued in the Superior Court of the State of California in Santa Clara County by Proview Electronics Co. Ltd. And Proview Technology Co., both facets of Chinese technology company Shenzhen Proview Technology, which claims the tech giant engaged in deceptive practices when it bought the trademark to the term €œiPad.€

In its lawsuit, filed Feb. 17, Proview claims that Apple concealed its real intentions when it purchased the trademark, ostensibly for a special-purpose entity named IP Application Development Ltd. (iPAD). Of course, Apple ended up attaching the name to its best-selling tablet, something that Proview feels entitles it to unspecified damages.

€œIn relation to the U.S., Apple is going to somewhat have a homeground advantage,€ Elliot Papageorgiou, a partner at law firm Rouse Legal (China), told Reuters Feb. 24. But Apple could still move to settle, he added, €œsimply because the ability to disrupt shipments is more immediate than the pressure faced by Proview and its potential delisting.€

Proview, which has filed for bankruptcy and apparently risks delisting from the Hong Kong stock exchange, is already locked in battle with Apple over the issue in Chinese courts. There, Shenzhen Proview Technology has argued that, while Apple indeed purchased that trademark from its Taiwanese affiliate in 2009, those rights are invalid on the Chinese mainland. It wants Chinese courts to forbid Apple from selling its tablets as the €œiPad€ in China.

€œWe bought Proview€™s worldwide rights to the iPad trademark in 10 different countries several years ago,€ Apple wrote in a Feb. 22 statement to The New York Times and other media outlets. €œProview refuses to honor their agreement with Apple in China and a Hong Kong court has sided with Apple in this matter.€

That€™s not Apple€™s only Chinese conundrum at the moment. In late January, The New York Times published a series of reports about working conditions at Foxconn, which builds Apple€™s bestselling products. €œThe workers assembling iPhones, iPads and other devices often labor in harsh conditions,€ read the paper€™s Jan. 25 piece, which partly drew its information from unnamed factory employees. €œProblems are as varied as onerous work environments and serious€”sometimes deadly€”safety problems.€

Those reports drew a fair amount of negative attention to Apple. In January, it became the first technology company admitted to the Fair Labor Association, and its suppliers apparently opted to cooperate fully with a €œspecial voluntary audit€ by the organization. €œWe believe that workers everywhere have the right to a safe and fair work environment,€ Apple CEO Tim Cook wrote in a Feb. 13 statement.

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