iPad name, bought for £35,000, at centre of possible $2 billion claim
On the eve of the launch of its new iPad next month, predicted for March 7, Apple remains embroiled in a complex dispute which is already threatening sales in China and could even - worst scenario - impact exports from that country where all the world's iPads are made .
Th orighinal Proview iPAD
At the centre of it is this computer named the iPAD - short for Internet Personal Access device - produced by the Chinese firm Proview Technology in 1998.
The firm said at a press conference on Friday that it had spent $30 million on the computer, producing between 10,000 and 20,000 of them until 2009, when the trademark dispute with Apple arose.
Proview sold rights to the name iPad for £35,000 some years ago via a London company which later sold them on to Apple for £10.
Proview, which has filed for bankruptcy, is claiming that the rights sold did not include trademark rights in mainland China itself. And they want a ban on shipments of the iPad tablet into and out of the country.
Apple insists China was included. The WSJ reports that documents reviewed by Dow Jones Newswires indicate Proview, in an agreement dated Dec. 23, 2009, said it would transfer the iPad trademark to Apple in several countries, including South Korea, Thailand, Singapore and China.
Still the dispute rolls on. And figures now being mentioned for an out of court settlement range up to $2 billion in compensation from Apple.
"If we are not compensated properly, then Apple doesn't use the iPad trademark in mainland China," said Yang Long-san, chief of Proview at the press conference,
"We bought Proview's world-wide rights to the iPad trademark in 10 different countries several years ago," said an Apple spokeswoman in a reiterated statement, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Proview has been told that China's customs authorities are unlikely to intervene in the trademark battle because of the sheer size of the market and the fact the "Chinese love Apple products," the Journal reported .
But Mr Yang said they had applied to local customs to ban the iPad in about 30 cities and some had ordered retailers to stop selling the tablet due to the dispute.
Yang said the best option to resolve the legal dispute would be an out-of-court settlement. The next hearing of the case is next week: on February 22 .
Last year Apple lost a case to Proview in one court - but another returned a verdict favourable to Apple.
Yang said there was currently a gap in expectations on both sides, but declined to say whether it was related to the amount of compensation, said the WSJ.
Proview was one of the world's top monitor makers until the financial crisis in 2008 .
Reuters correspondents who visited the site of its operations in Shenzhen found that the building largely abandoned, with its windows shattered, said the WSJ.
Apple says it bought Proview's worldwide rights to the trademark in 10 different countries several years ago, including rights to the iPad name from a Taiwan subsidiary of Proview International.
The Taiwan unit sold the rights to the iPad name to London-based IP Application Development for £35,000 . According to Proview, IP Application Development then sold the iPad name to Apple for £10 months later.
However, Proview Technology says the sale did not cover the trademark's use in China, where it says it owns the iPad name.