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Chinese official backs Proview in Apple dispute

By Paul Armstrong, CNN
April 25, 2012 -- Updated 0857 GMT (1657 HKT)
Taiwanese-owned Proview insists it did not sell the rights to the iPad name to Apple in China.
Taiwanese-owned Proview insists it did not sell the rights to the iPad name to Apple in China.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Proview Technology Shenzhen claims it trademarked the IPAD name in China in 2000
  • Apple says it bought the name from the firm in 10 different countries in 2009
  • A Chinese judge in February advised both parties to settle the dispute out of court
  • Apple announced it had doubled its profits in the last quarter, thanks mainly to China sales

Hong Kong (CNN) -- A senior Chinese official has sided with a company battling with Apple over the right to use the iPad name in China's lucrative market.

Proview Technology Shenzhen claims it trademarked the name in China in 2000 -- 10 years before Apple's iPad hit global stores. But the U.S. technology giant says it bought the name from the struggling Asian electronics firm in 10 different countries in 2009.

Proview insists it did not sell the rights to the name in China.

After seeing its claim against the Taiwanese-owned company falter in a Chinese court last year, Apple faced a lawsuit filed by Proview at the Higher People's Court in Guangzhou in February. The court did not issue a ruling but asked both parties to consider settling out of court.

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If no agreement can be reached, a ruling is likely to be handed down by the end of May, the court told state-run China Daily.

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But on Tuesday, a senior official with China's State Administration for Industry and Commerce (SAIC) -- the body that handles intellectual property infringements -- said Proview is the lawful owner of the trademark and any transfer of ownership would have to be approved by the relevant authorities.

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"According to the above-mentioned stipulations, Proview (Shenzhen) is still the legal registrant of the iPad trademark," said Fu Shuangjian, deputy director general of the SAIC, in quotes carried by Xinhua.

This is the first time Chinese officials have commented on the case, and analysts suggest this may have a bearing on the final court ruling.

Stores in Huizhou and Shijiazhuang were ordered to stop sales of iPads by local authorities earlier this year after a lower court in Shenzhen ruled against Apple. Proview has also filed lawsuits in Shanghai, Hong Kong and in California to block Apple from using the iPad name -- a potentially disastrous scenario for the U.S. company.

On Wednesday, Apple announced it had doubled its profits in the last quarter, thanks to burgeoning sales of its iPhone and IPad in China. Net profit came in at $11.6 billion for the first three months of 2012, up from $6 billion in the same period last year. Both products are made in China.

In contrast, Proview, which makes computer monitors and other electronic products, is financially stricken and fighting liquidation requests from creditors.

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