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Proview sues Apple in U.S. court over iPad trademark dispute

The Chinese firm accuses Apple of fraudulently acquiring the iPad name from it through a subsidiary company that was not identified as being owned by Apple.

February 25, 2012|By Nathan Olivarez-Giles, Los Angeles Times

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

Proview, a Shenzhen, China-based company known largely for making computer monitors, filed a complaint in Santa Clara County Superior Court, accusing Apple of forming a company in London with the sole purpose of purchasing the trademark for the "iPad" name on behalf of Apple.

That company was called IP Application Development and was a subsidiary of Apple, Proview said in the California lawsuit. Proview also accuses IP Application Development of not disclosing that Apple was its parent company, according to the lawsuit.

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

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 trademark from Proview, while Proview has argued it never sold the iPad name to Apple.

According to the Santa Clara County suit, IP Application Development told Proview Technologies in 2009 that it 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 owned by Apple, but left out that the iPad name would be used as the product name for a tablet computer.

According to the complaint, a man purporting to be a lawyer with 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 named Graham Robinson and 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, partly because of the bankruptcy filings of Circuit City, formerly its largest retail partner, and Polaroid, one of its largest business partners.

Proview said it sold the iPad trademark rights to IP Application Development for 35,000 British pounds, or about $55,000, in December 2009.

On Jan. 27, 2010, Apple unveiled the iPad.

In its suit against Apple, Proview said that the 2009 agreement between the two companies should be declared an illegal contract and that Apple should be stripped 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 also has 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.

nathan.olivarezgiles@latimes.com

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