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Proview sues Apple in U.S. for alleged fraud in iPad trademark riff

February 24, 2012|By Nathan Olivarez-Giles
  • A salesman stands in front of an Apple iPad ad at an Apple store in Beijing on Wednesday.
A salesman stands in front of an Apple iPad ad at an Apple store in Beijing… (Liu Jin / AFP/Getty Images )

The iPad trademark battle between Apple and Proview Technologies has jumped from China to the U.S. as a new lawsuit accuses Apple of committing fraud in 2009.

Proview's Taiwanese subsidiary, Proview Electronics, known largely for making computer monitors, filed a complaint in Santa Clara County Superior Court on Feb. 17, accusing Apple of hiring the lawfirm Edwards Angell Palmer & Dodge to start a company that was formed with the sole purpose of purchasing the trademark for the "iPad" name on its behalf.

That company was called IP Application Development and while it wasn't owned by Apple, it was doing Apple's bidding, Proview said in the California lawsuit. Proview also accuses IP Application Development of not disclosing that it was pursuing the iPad trademark as an agent of Apple, according to the lawsuit.

Apple officials weren't available Friday for comment on Proview's U.S. lawsuit.

READ THE DOCUMENT: Read Proview's U.S. lawsuit agianst Apple Inc.

The previous lawsuits between Proview and Apple over the iPad trademark have been filed in China and centered on a 2006 agreement between the two firms.

Apple has said it purchased the iPad name trademark from Proview, while Proview has argued it never sold the iPad name to Apple. Rather, Proview has argued in the Chinese suits that its subsidiary, Proview Electronics, sold the iPad naming rights to Apple in a "global trademark" agreement that excludes China. The 2006 deal was worth about $54,000.

According to the Santa Clara County suit, IP Application Development told Proview Technologies in 2009 that it wanted to wanted to purchase, not license, the iPad naming rights as an abbreviation of the company's full name.

Proview claims in its complaint that IP Application Development not only never mentioned that it was pursing the trademarks for Apple, it also left out that the iPad name would be used as the product name for an Apple tablet computer.

According to the complaint, a representative of IP Application Development named Jonathan Hargreaves said in an email to Proview that "IPAD is an abbreviation for the company name IP Application Development Limited. This is a newly formed company, and I'm sure you can understand that we are not ready to publicize what the company's business is, since we have not yet made any public announcements. As I said in my last message, I can assure you that the company will not compete with Proview."

In the suit, Proview said Hargreaves was actually a man named Graham Robinson who committed fraud in giving the company an alias when representing IP Application Development. Proview also argues that not disclosing who owned IP Application Development and lying about what the iPad name would be used for was fraudulent as well.

Proview was struggling financially in 2009, and still is, due in part to the bankruptcy filings of Circuit City, formerly its largest retail partner, and Polaroid, one of its largest business partners. The company also tried to all-in-one desktop and laptop computers under the IPAD name, but those attempts never took off.

On Dec. 23, 2009, Proview sold the iPad trademark rights to IP Application Development for 35,000 British pounds, or about $55,000 dollars.

On Jan. 27, 2010, Apple famously unveiled the iPad, the device that changed personal computing and jump-started a previously dormant tablet industry.

In its suit against Apple, Proview said it is looking for the 2009 agreement between the two companies to be declared an illegal contract and that Apple be stricken of the ability to use the iPad trademark.

Over the last few months, Proview has sued Apple in multiple Chinese city courts, calling for sales bans on the iPad over the alleged trademark infringement. It has also threatened to sue Apple for as much as $2 billion.

On Thursday, a Shanghai court turned down Proview's request that Apple's iPad be taken off store shelves in a temporary sales injunction. Last week, the Intermediate People's Court in the southern Chinese city of Huizhou ruled that iPad sales should be halted until the dispute is resolved. Other rulings have resulted in iPads being pulled off store shelves in northern China as the trademark battle has escalated.

Though the U.S. suit shows a new level of aggression in the dispute between the two companies, Proview and its creditors, which include the Bank of China, China Minsheng Banking and China Merchants Bank, have reportedly expressed interest in settling with Apple out of court.

[Updated 3 p.m.: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Proview Technologies filed the U.S. lawsuit agianst Apple Inc. The suit was filed by a subsidiary, Proview Electronics. The story also incorrectly stated that Proview alleged that Apple owned IP Application Development Limited. Proview, in the suit, alleges that Apple asked a lawfirm to form IP Application Development Limited and purchase the trademarks on its behalf.]

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Apple iPad sales cleared in Shanghai amid trademark dispute

China seizes iPads as Apple's trademark fight with Proview escalates

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