iPad case heats up in Shanghai

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 23 February, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 23 February, 2012, 12:00am


Related topics

A Shanghai court yesterday heard evidence in a Shenzhen-based electronics firm's infringement lawsuit against Apple, further escalating a battle over the iPad name.

In the preliminary hearing at the Shanghai Pudong New Area People's Court, lawyers for Proview Technology asked the court to order Apple's iPad tablet computers to be pulled off the shelves in Shanghai stores pending the outcome of the suit.

Proview contends that Apple infringed its 'IPAD' trademark, registered in Taiwan, the mainland and several other places between 2000 and 2004.

However, yesterday's four-hour hearing, with a packed gallery, did not result in any decisions or direct action from the court. Proview's lawyers said afterwards that it could take several months for formal hearings to begin, assuming the court would take the case.

US-based Apple, founded by Steve Jobs, said it bought rights to the trademark from Proview's Taiwanese subsidiary, Proview Electronics, in 2009. This was thrown out by a Shenzhen court in December, when judges sided with Proview's argument that the subsidiary did not own rights to the trademark registered on the mainland.

Similar lawsuits have been filed in other mainland cities. Authorities in at least four provinces moved earlier this month to pull iPads from shelves in response to the Shenzhen judgment, which Apple has challenged.

A victory for Proview - which took legal action against the management of Apple-branded stores instead of the parent company - could prompt wider action on the mainland.

Observers in the court, however, said deliberations also focused on whether cash-strapped Proview would be able to recompense Apple for lost earnings, should the ruling be unfavourable.

Proview Technology went bankrupt in 2010. Its parent company said in October that it was about 3.8 billion yuan (HK$4.68 billion) in debt.

Apple's lawyers did not speak to the media outside the courthouse and could not be reached for comment late yesterday.

Mainland media reported that the deliberations were heated, with judges repeatedly ordering both sides to keep their tempers in check.

China National Radio said Apple's lawyers presented documents - understood to be copies of e-mails earlier circulated to the media - which they claimed showed that Proview founder Yang Rongshan had approved the Taiwan unit's sale of the trademark. The firm's lawyers objected to the submissions.

'I don't feel that Apple's lawyers produced too much in the way of new evidence in court,' Proview lawyer Xie Xianghui said.

Xie refused to speculate on the possibility of an out-of-court settlement as yet. Proview previously said it was seeking US$2 billion in damages from Apple, and threatened to file suit in the United States.