Trademark row over Apple's iPad moves to Shanghai

SHANGHAI, February 22, 2012 (AFP) - A trademark dispute between Apple and a Chinese computer maker moved to Shanghai Wednesday, where the debt-laden plaintiff is seeking to stop the sale of the US giant's iconic iPad.

Proview Technology (Shenzhen) says it owns the Chinese rights to the "iPad" name and is asking the Shanghai court to order Apple to stop selling its trendy tablet computer in the city, where it has three stores.

Lawyers for both companies would exchange evidence at Wednesday's hearing and the Pudong District People's Court would then decide whether the case should proceed to trial, a court official told AFP.

The Shanghai case marks the latest round in a long-running and multi-pronged legal battle between Apple and Proview, which has been badly hit by the financial crisis, over the rights to the iPad name.

The Taiwan affiliate of Proview Technology (Shenzhen) registered "iPad" as a trademark in several countries including China as early as 2000 -- years before Apple began selling its product.

The US titan subsequently bought the rights for the global trademark, but Proview Technology (Shenzhen) claims the Taiwanese affiliate had no right to sell the Chinese rights.

Apple last year took the firm to a Chinese court, claiming trademark infringement, but the court ruled the US company lacked "supporting facts and evidence" for its claim -- even though a Hong Kong court had previously sided with Apple.

Apple is now appealing that case but Proview, which makes computer monitors, has itself filed trademark lawsuits against Apple in China and is threatening to sue the technology giant in the United States for $2 billion.

Proview's lawyer, Xie Xianghui, said Tuesday the company was preparing for talks with Apple, raising hopes for a settlement.

Xie's remarks came a day after Apple's law firm warned Proview of possible legal action over "defamatory statements and unlawful actions" aimed at interfering with Apple's business, according to a letter seen by AFP.

In another lawsuit, a Chinese court last week ordered an electronics chain store to stop selling Apple iPads at a branch in the southern city of Huizhou, according to the GH Law Firm which represented Proview.

Proview, based in China's southern boomtown of Shenzhen, has also filed complaints with local governments in several Chinese cities, resulting in seizures of iPads in at least two places.

Analysts expect the companies will eventually reach an out-of-court settlement.

"Apple has so much cash, they will look at the situation, they will look at how their profits are going to be impacted, and if it looks like it is going to be significant they will just pay and take care of it," said Ben Cavender, a senior analyst at China Market Research Group.