Authorities in China seem to start to act on the iPad trademark dispute between Apple and local company Proview.
According to Hebei (a province near Beijing) Youth Daily (click here for original news in Chinese), even though Apple is currently appealing the court’s decision after Proview won its first fight, many local Administrations of Industry and Commerce (AIC) across the country start to take action. In Shijiazhuang, a city 200 miles South of Beijing and capital of Hebie province, Apple stores has been ordered to take iPads off shelves. At the same time, undisclosed amount of fines are on their way, too.
(Proview is the legal owner of the iPad trademark in China and filed the trademark way back in 2001, years before any iPad was out. For more background information of the case, please check Chinahearsay.com)
Though high court judgment is yet to come for the case, Proview has already filed claims against Apple with Beijing Xicheng District AIC branch, and the AIC branch has officially accepted the case and is now investigating Apple. Apple stores in the district could face a fine as high as hundreds of millions of yuan.
Besides AICs in Beijing, it has been reported that AICs in Shanghai, Shenzhen, Jiangshu and other places have also started to investigate the case.
According to Mr. Zhang, retailer at local electronic mall, retailers are not allowed to put iPad2s on display, but if someone wants to buy one, he can get it from the storage. AIC investigators will confiscate all displayed iPads.
Other retailers are facing the same problem, citing that iPads are involved in trademark infringement, and AIC investigators will confiscate any iPad on display.
In Hebei province, iPads have been removed from shelves. Sales people told that all iPads are off the shelf at least temporarily due to AIC investigation.
It was reported that the investigation team of the AIC at Xihua district received a letter from the attorney representing Proview, claiming Apple infringing its trademark. It is said that the investigation team immediately contact the National AIC to confirm the case and got affirmative answers.
Sources said that all infringing merchandises will be confiscated, and a fine up to five times of the total sale may be imposed.
After two days of investigation, investigators have confiscated 45 iPads, all of which are iPad2s.
Consumer comments from Sina Weibo, however, are overwhelmingly pro-Apple. Many either blamed Proview for “stealing” from Apple, or the government for being corrupted.
A woman holds up an iPad with the iTunes U app after a news conference introducing a digital textbook service in New York January 19, 2012.[Photo/Agencies]
The tablets have been confiscated from shelves in many retail shops and electronic stores due to a Chinese company’s lawsuit against the Apple Inc over the trademark infringement, in Shijiazhuang city, capital of North China’s Hebei province.
Some retailers have removed the iPad tablets to back storerooms, fearing that local Administration of Industry and Commerce will confiscate them.
An inspection squad of the Xinhua District’s Administration of Industry and Commerce in Shijiazhuang city, launched a campaign to crack down the sale of the tablets on Feb 9 after receiving Proview Technology (Shenzhen)’s complaint. A total of 45 iPad tablets were confiscated by the authority in the district over two days.
Proview Technology (Shenzhen) claimed in early 2011 that Apple Inc had been infringing on its iPad trademark and launched court proceedings, said Xie Xianghui, a lawyer for Proview Shenzhen.
The company has extended its complaint to the Beijing Administration for Industry and Commerce and appealed to three courts in other places: Shenzhen Futian District People’s Court, Huizhou Municipal Intermediate People’s Court and Shanghai Pudong New Area People’s Court.
Proview Taipei registered the iPad trademark in a number of countries and regions as early as 2000, and Proview Shenzhen registered the trademark on the Chinese mainland in 2001.
Apple bought the rights to use the trademark from Proview Taipei in February 2010 via IP Application Development Limited, a company registered in Britain. However, Proview Shenzhen claims it still reserves the right to use the trademark on the Chinese mainland. The two sides have been entangled in a legal battle ever since.
The Municipal Intermediate People’s Court in Shenzhen rejected a lawsuit by Apple and IP accusing Proview Shenzhen of infringing on the iPad trademark in December 2011.
An official in a city in northern China says a batch of iPads were seized by local authorities last weekend, due to a trademark dispute with a Chinese company.
The official said investigators in Shijiazhuang, southwest of Beijing, started seizing iPads on Feb. 8 at the request of a company that filed a complaint with the government accusing Apple Inc. of violating its rights to the iPad name.
The trademark dispute between Apple Inc. and Shenzhen Proview Technology has lasted for years. in 2006, Taiwanese company Proview Electronics agreed to sell the iPad name, which it had registered in 2000 and 2001 in Taiwan and mainland China, to Apple. But Apple only secured the rights to the iPd name from Taiwan and not the mainland, where the name is still owned by a subsidiary called Proview Technology.
In June 2010, Apple sued the Shenzhen Proview Technology, demanding it to confirm Apple as the exclusive user of trademark, but it lost the case last December. Apple has appealed, and according to Beijing’s Xicheng district court administration, the case is “still under investigation.”
Shenzhen Weiguan then filed complaints to authorities in many Chinese cities and demanded a sale ban of iPads.
Currently, business administrations in cities like Shanghai, Shenzhen and Xuzhou have investigated into the issue, and a national ban is likely, a local newspaper in Hebei Province reported.