POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Jul 3, 2012
BEIJING » Apple has paid $60 million to settle a dispute in China over ownership of the iPad name, a court announced Monday, removing a potential obstacle to sales of the popular tablet computer in the key Chinese market.
Apple's dispute with Shenzhen Proview Technology highlighted the possible pitfalls for global companies in China's infant trademark system. It also posed a challenge for the communist government, which wants to attract technology investors to develop China's economy.
Apple Inc. says it bought the global rights to the iPad name from Proview in 2009, but Chinese authorities say the rights in China were never transferred. A Chinese court ruled in December that Proview still owned the name in China. Proview, which is struggling financially, asked Chinese authorities to seize iPads in an apparent effort to pressure Apple to settle.
"The iPad dispute resolution is ended," the Guangdong High People's Court said in a statement. "Apple Inc. has transferred $60 million to the account of the Guangdong High Court as requested in the mediation letter."
China is Apple's second-largest market after the United States and the source of much of the Cupertino, Calif.-based company's sales growth.
Proview hoped for more money but felt pressure to settle because it needs to pay debts, said Xie Xianghui, a lawyer for the company. He said Proview sought as much as $400 million and might still be declared bankrupt in a separate legal proceeding despite the infusion of settlement money.
"This is a result that is acceptable to both sides," Xie said.
The dispute centered on whether Apple acquired the iPad name in China when it bought rights in various countries from a Proview affiliate in Taiwan for 35,000 British pounds ($55,000). The December court ruling said Proview, which registered the iPad trademark in China in 2001, was not bound by that sale, even though it was part of the same company.
The settlement should be good news for both Apple and its customers because it clears a potential obstacle for the company to start selling the new iPad 3 in China, said You Yunting, a lawyer for the DeBund Law Office in Shanghai.