Apple ready to settle in 'iPad' trademark dispute?

The company is pushing for a settlement in the "IPAD" trademark dispute with China-based Proview, according to a Chinese government newswire.

Apple's Sanlitun store in Beijing. Apple

Two weeks after a Chinese court proposed a settlement between Apple and Proview over a disputed trademark , a Chinese government newswire report suggests Apple is pushing for its own settlement in a bid to close the complaint.

Proview lawyer Xie Xianghui told China's government newswire: "We feel that the attitude of Apple Inc. has changed. Although they expressed that they were willing to negotiate, they have never taken any action before."

"But now, they are having conversations with us, and we have begun to consult on the case," he added.

The wire report claims Apple had offered a settlement figure to end the litigation, though Proview did not disclose the amount and is not yet agreeing on a deal.

This comes only a few weeks since the Guangdong High Court in southern China pushed for the two companies to settle the ongoing dispute. A Proview lawyer said at the time it "expects" the company to reach a settlement with Apple.

Proview sued Apple for $1.6 billion over its use of the "IPAD" trademark, claiming it had registered the stamp in a number of countries including China as early as 2000. Apple claims it was sold the trademark for $55,104 years earlier and had rights to the "IPAD" name in 10 different countries, including China.

Proview disputes the claims and says the trademark was not included in the deal, reserving the "IPAD" name for its own in mainland China.

The Shenzen-based company, which makes LCD and computer screens, suffered in the past few years to deal with its 400 million yuan ($64 million) debt. Proview filed for bankruptcy protection in 2009.

Apple threatened to sue Proview for defamation over the trademark claims. A letter to Proview's chief executive Yang Rongshan said that Apple's lawyers may pursue a case based on "unlawful actions intended to wrongfully interfere with Apple's business and business relationships."

But Proview brought the trademark dispute to Apple's front door by submitting a complaint to a California court.

Apple was unavailable for comment at the time of writing.

However, if Apple decides to settle it would force the company to change the name of the iPad in China. It would be a clean resolution, but the company would also take a hit for admitting its fault in the dispute.

Considering how far Apple is willing to go in a bid to protect the worldwide rights to the names of its products -- particularly in the case of the latest iPad and the company's bid to define '3G' as '4G' to circumvent legal challenges -- it seems unlikely the tablet maker will settle.

But as ZDNet's Hana Stewart-Smith explained, China's protectionism towards trademarks, patents and other intellectual property "is deliberately designed to favor Chinese based companies," leaving Apple potentially fighting a no-win battle. "This has resulted in Chinese versions of Western brands being protected by patent law, such as Weibo in place of Twitter, and Baidu in place of Google," she said.

If Apple settles in China, there is no guarantee that it would not have a knock-on effect in the case in Santa Clara County court.

This story originally appeared at ZDNet's Between the Lines under the headline "Apple seeks settlement to end Proview 'iPad' trademark dispute."

 

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