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Apple throws a hail mary in China iPad case

The company is arguing its case before the Higher People's Court of Guangzhou, which could make or break its ability to stick with the iPad name.

What will happen between Apple and Proview in China?
What will happen between Apple and Proview in China?

Apple is pulling no punches in its case against Proview, but if it loses this round, that might be lights out for Apple's iPad brand in China.

The iPhone maker today argued its case for why it should be allowed to use the iPad name in China before the Higher People's Court of Guangzhou. The plaintiff, Proview Technology, argues that it owns the iPad trademark and should be compensated for Apple's use of the name. If Apple doesn't want to license the trademark, Proview says, it should be forced to change its tablet's name.

"The value of iPad's trademark rocketed after Apple launched the tablet computer in January 2010," an Apple lawyer said today in court, according to Reuters, which was in attendance at the hearing. "In the eyes of the consumer, iPad is associated with Apple. If the court decides that Proview wins the case, then this will confuse consumers and hurt their interests."

For Apple, such a loss could be disastrous. As Reuters points out, in most cases, the Higher People's Court is the last word on lawsuits. Apple could appeal the decision to China's Supreme Court, but Kenny Wong, partner of Mayber Brown JSM, a Hong Kong-based law practice, told Reuters that the chances of Apple even getting the chance to argue its case again are "extremely low."

But there's also a lot riding on this case for Proview. The company is in financial disarray, debt-laden, and desperately hoping that something can turn its operation around. Apple, it believes, could be just the way to do that. In China, Proview is reportedly seeking $1.6 billion in damages. And in the U.S., where Proview filed a suit earlier this month, the company's representatives have threatened asking for $2 billion in damages.

Proview has brought about 40 lawsuits against Apple across China, arguing that the iPad maker is illegally using its trademark. Apple, meanwhile, says that it bought rights to the iPad name years ago, and has every right to use it across several countries.

"We bought Proview's worldwide rights to the iPad trademark in 10 different countries several years ago," an Apple spokesperson recently told CNET. "Proview refuses to honor their agreement with Apple in China and a Hong Kong court has sided with Apple in this matter."

Although much is uncertain in Apple's case against Proview, there is one thing the Cupertino, Calif.-based company can rely on: its iPad won't be banned from sale in China.

"The customs have told us that it will be difficult to implement a ban because many Chinese consumers love Apple products," Proview chief executive Yang Long-san said earlier this month. "The sheer size of the market is very big. We have applied to some local customs for the ban and they'll report to the headquarters in Beijing."