iPad trademark battle crosses Pacific

Apple’s battle with a Chinese firm over the iPad name has now reached the US legal system. But this new case is about alleged sneaky tactics rather than the name itself.

As we’ve previously covered, Proview registered the name “IPAD” in Taiwan in 2000 and China in 2001. It sold the Taiwan rights to an Apple-controlled company in 2006, but still claims control of the name in China itself.

In an attempt to head off the claims, Apple brought a case against Proview in China last year, but lost. Proview is now demanding $1.6 billion in damages for infringement and calling for an immediate halt in Apple sales. Although there have been isolated reports of officials taking iPads off Chinese store shelves, various courts are still considering the issue of an injunction or permanent sales ban and Apple isn’t yet formally blocked from selling the device in China.

Now Proview has filed a lawsuit in Santa Clara County, the jurisdiction that covers Apple’s head offices. This isn’t an attempt to claim trademarks in the United States (there’s no disputing Apple has the right to “iPad” there.) Instead Proview claims that Apple acted unfairly both in buying the Taiwanese rights and negotiating for Chinese rights.

According to the lawsuit, Apple effectively created a bogus company named IP Application Development Limited. Proview believes this was done solely to have an excuse to show an interest in the “IPAD” name without tipping anyone off that it was Apple that would be using the trademark. According to Proview, this was done “with the intent to defraud and induce the plaintiffs to enter into the agreement.”

If the claims are true, it could be a difficult case to determine. You could argue that if Proview knew the true identity of the buyer, it would have figured out Apple was planning a major device that might bring huge profits and thus would have jacked up the asking price for the trademark.

On the other hand, you can argue that it doesn’t matter who the buyer is: it was up to Proview to decide a fair price for what it was selling and it’s too late to complain now that it accepted too little money.