December 07, 2011, 8:17 PM — Large corporations are used to getting their way in legal skirmishes with smaller companies, so it probably rankles the hell out of Apple executives and attorneys that a judge in China has rejected their lawsuits to bully a Chinese firm into relinquishing the iPad trademark.
And it must be infuriating to be facing a $1.5 billion counter-lawsuit from Chinese display monitor vendor Proview that seeks to prevent Apple from selling its popular tablet in China under the iPad name.
The origins of the case go back to 2001, when Proview successfully registered the trademarks "iPAD" and "IPAD" in China for a tablet it introduced a year earlier.
The tablet bombed, and that could have been the end of the story. But in 2009, a Taiwan-based subsidiary of Proview sold the rights to the iPad trademark to U.K. company IP Applications. A year later, IP Applications flipped the trademark rights, selling them to Apple.
Looking good for Apple, right? Not quite, as IDG News Service's Michael Kan explains in writing about the iPad maker's legal setback:
The court rejected the lawsuits, stating that even as Apple had signed a contract for the trademark rights, it had done so only through Proview's Taiwan subsidiary. Proview's Shenzhen-based company did not attend any trademark negotiations, nor did it formally transfer the trademark rights. As a result, the contract is not legally binding, according to the court.
Apple has declined to comment on the case, so it's not clear if the company intends to appeal the lawsuit dismissals, fight the counter-suit or seek a settlement.
Since Proview reportedly is struggling financially, I'd say a settlement is the most likely outcome. China is a huge market for Apple, which owns nearly three-quarters of tablet sales in that Asian country.
What it doesn't own, according to the Chinese court, are the rights to the iPad name in China. Not a problem a few hundred millions dollars can't solve.
And if a settlement doesn't work, Apple can always just change the name of its tablet in the Chinese market, loathe as it would be to do so. I think Prince's old unpronounceable symbol is available.