Business / Companies

Official backs Proview on iPad

By Tang Yue (China Daily) Updated: 2012-04-25 10:46


A top official threw weight behind Shenzhen-based Proview Technology in its dispute with Apple over the iPad trademark, but instructed law enforcement agencies to wait for the court's decision before taking action.

"According to Chinese law, both parties involved in the trademark transfer should apply with us together (to make the transfer legal). So Proview Technology is still the owner of the iPad trademark," said Fu Shuangjian, deputy director of the State Administration for Industry and Commerce, on Tuesday.

Fu's remarks about the trademark ownership have no legal power, however, because the administrative and judicial systems are independent from each other, said Feng Xiaoqing, an intellectual-property scholar with the China University of Political Science and Law.

"His words should have nothing to do with the final verdict," he said.

But if Apple failed to follow the required procedure on the Chinese mainland, as Proview alleges, Feng said, it will probably lose the case.

Authorities would be wise not to act until the court's verdict is announced, Feng said. "Otherwise, the commerce and industry authorities could get sued if the verdict supports Apple."

The Guangdong High People's Court in South China opened a public hearing between the Chinese company and the US tech giant on Feb 29, but no decision has been made yet.

The judge said a mediated settlement is the preferred solution to such a high-profile lawsuit. Xie Xianghui, the attorney for Shenzhen Proview, said the two parties have not reached an agreement on the amount of compensation.

If mediation fails, a ruling is likely to be handed down by the end of May, the court previously told China Daily.

Fu instructed local commercial authorities to wait the court's verdict.

"We should deal with the case in a prudent and safe manner," he said. "Our local administrations for commerce and industry have received complaints, and they have been collecting evidence. When the ruling is announced, we will take action based on the evidence."

According to media reports, some stores in several cities, such as Shijiazhuang and Xuzhou, temporarily stopped selling iPads in February after lower courts ruled in favor of Proview.Apple maintains that Proview sold its worldwide rights to the iPad trademark in 2009. However, the registration was never transferred in China. Proview still holds the rights to the trademark it registered in 2001, according to the website of China's trademark authority.

According to Tian Lipu, head of the State Intellectual Property Office, 1,416,800 applications for trademarks were filed last year, 32 percent more than the previous year.

China has accumulated 9,711,500 trademark applications. Of those, 6,650,700 have been granted and 5,510,100 are still valid.

"We are the world No 1 in numbers of trademarks, but that doesn't mean we are a strong country in trademarks," Fu said in Beijing at the news conference on last year's China's intellectual property development.

He noted that only 11 Chinese brands were among last year's top 500 listed by World Brand Lab. Only four were in top 100. "It shows that the competitiveness of our brands is still weak globally," Fu said.

Liu Chuntian, an intellectual property rights expert at Renmin University of China, said Chinese people still lack knowledge of intellectual property in a broad sense.

"The function of a trademark is to give credit to a brand and help consumers choose from different products on the market," Liu told China Daily. "However, the buying and selling of trademarks has become an industrial chain in China."

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