Troubled history of China's 'iPAD' maker

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 18 February, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 18 February, 2012, 12:00am


Hong Kong-based Proview International Holdings was established in 1989, and owns Proview Electronics in Taiwan and Proview Technology in Shenzhen, and it claims to have created the 'iPAD', with capitalised letters, differing slightly from Apple's 'iPad'.

Proview International manufactures and sells cathode ray tube (CRT) and liquid crystal display (LCD) monitors, as well as LCD and plasma display TVs.

As the market for CRT monitors declines, Proview has begun looking towards flat-screen digital TV business for future growth. Proview said it was once one of the top five computer monitor-makers in the world.

The company said it registered the trademark in Taiwan in 2000 and on the mainland in 2001. The trademark was registered in other countries such as Mexico, Thailand and Singapore at about the same time, it said.

The company said it produced a 'CRT-based internet appliance' called Internet Personal Access Device, or iPAD in 1998, and turned out more than 10,000 pieces until the product line was stopped because of technical problems.

Each device retailed for US$300, and Proview founder Yang Rongshan told a news conference the company had spent more than US$30 million on R&D for its iPAD.

Proview International was suspended from trading on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange on August 2, 2010, and the Shenzhen subsidiary later filed for bankruptcy.

Proview International said in October 2010 that it had about 3.8 billion yuan (HK$4.67 billion) in debts. Hejun Vanguard Group, a management consultancy firm in Beijing that helped Hangzhou Wahaha Group win a lawsuit against French food giant Groupe Danone in 2007, has become Proview's major creditor. Hejun said the company's assets had been frozen by eight state-owned banks, including the Bank of China and Bank of Communications.

The trademark dispute started in 2009 when Apple said it bought Proview's trademark for US$55,000, but Yang said it was given assurances that the company did not intend to make a product similar to Proview's iPAD.

Apple insists it bought Proview's worldwide rights to the trademark in 10 different countries and has accused Proview of failing to honour its agreement. But Proview claims that it still owns trademark on the mainland and the Taiwan company had no right to sell the mainland rights.

In December 2011, a Shenzhen court ruled that Proview Shenzhen owned the trademark, but Apple appealed against the decision and the next hearing is on February 29.