A Chinese company seeking to block the U.S.-based Apple technology giant from using the iPad name to sell its popular computer tablets in China has opened a new legal front on Apple’s home turf.
Proview Electronics said Friday that it filed suit recently against Apple in a California court near the U.S. company’s headquarters. The Chinese company alleged that Apple has engaged in “unfair business and fraud” in claiming that it has the rights to use the iPad name to sell the hand-held tablets in mainland China, where it also manufactures the product.
The lawsuit in the U.S. is the latest legal skirmish between the debt-laden Chinese company and the world’s most valuable company. On Thursday, Apple won the right to continue iPad sales in Shanghai. A court there ruled against Proview’s effort to block sales pending a decision in a similar lawsuit in a higher Chinese court.
Shanghai resident He Ji said various Chinese courts are likely to look at the case in differing ways, leaving the eventual outcome uncertain.
“I think this is a problem with the differences in local courts. After all, there is no final ruling regarding the case in Guangzhou. So for now, we do not know who will finally have the rights to the iPad trademark. So for the question of whether there should be or should not be a ban on iPad sales, different courts would have different opinions.”
The dispute centers on the interpretation of various business transactions the two firms made over the last 12 years.
Proview’s Taiwan affiliate trademarked the iPad name in several countries, including China, as early as 2000, a decade before Apple started selling the product.
Subsequently, in 2009, Apple paid $55,000 to the Proview subsidiary for the rights to the name in 10 countries, including, it says, in China. But Proview says Apple concealed its role in the deal under another corporate name and that the mainland Chinese rights were not included.
The iPad tablets enjoy widespread popularity among technology-conscious Chinese. But earlier this month, authorities in several cities seized the hand-held computers from Chinese retailers while the trademark dispute remained unresolved.
Chinese media have reported that Proview is deeply in debt and needs to win the trademark fight with Apple in order to pay its creditors.