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Apple tablet may be forbidden fruit on mainland due to trademark row
Like victors in a sporting event, each person who managed to get a new iPad was cheered and applauded by Hong Kong Apple Store workers on Friday, the first day the tablet was available to consumers.
An employee at the Hong Kong Apple Store presents the new iPad to a customer on Friday. Gadget lovers in Australia, Japan and Hong Kong became the first people to snap up the new iPad. Aaron Tam / Agence France-Presse
Some who hoped to be among the first to take a bite of the new Apple entered a drawing on the company's website, others waited in long lines at stores.
"This one is for my friend in Hangzhou, because it's still hard to get the new iPad on the Chinese mainland," said a consumer surnamed Zhang, who won the right to buy the tablet in the drawing. He bought a 32 gigabyte new iPad, priced at HK$4,688 ($604), for his friend in the capital of Zhejiang province. It's not known when the new iPad will be sold on the mainland.
Apple Inc started selling the new iPad on Friday in more than 10 countries and regions, including Hong Kong.
Not all of the customers wanted them for personal use. Scalpers were out in force on Friday, trying to score the tablets at the Apple Store and from other retailers.
Meanwhile, the Guangdong Provincial High People's Court is still handling the trademark dispute between Apple and Proview Technology Shenzhen Co Ltd, and some local governments have started confiscating Apple iPads, generating concern that the company's newest product won't be available on the Chinese mainland's market.
While potential customers may have worried about the legal dispute, scalpers and gray-market vendors were uncertain they could meet the overwhelming demand for the new iPad.
A few hours after the iPads arrived in Hong Kong, smuggled tablets could already be found on the Chinese online-shopping website Taobao.com. An online-shop owner in Shenzhen, whose online alias is "Xiaobu", said his store already has 300 iPads in stock. His price for the 16G WiFi version is 3,988 yuan ($630), 800 yuan higher than the official price.
"Every ID is allowed to book only three new iPads. The first 300 units are almost sold out, but the second group of 300 will arrive soon," the shop owner said.
Zhongguancun, Beijing's largest electronic market by sales, is fully prepared for the new gadget's arrival. "The earliest that Zhongguancun could get the first new iPad is Saturday. The sale price is expected to be about 1,000 to 1,500 yuan higher than in Hong Kong," said Li Hailian, a vendor in Zhongguancun's IT mall.
Consumers who buy the new tablet from scalpers in Hong Kong have to pay additional fees, ranging from HK$500 to HK$1,000.
But some said this latest version might not be as hot as the iPad 2, which was launched about a year ago.
"There were many more scalpers trying to buy iPad 2 from consumers last year, and the prices they offered were higher," said an office worker named Mok. He intended to resell six tablets to scalpers after buying them in retail stores.
Legal experts said Apple has to obtain the ownership of the iPad trademark before it can sell the next-generation tablet on the Chinese mainland.
"There is no doubt that Proview Shenzhen holds absolute ownership of the iPad trademark on the Chinese mainland," said Guo He, professor of the College of Intellectual Property Rights at Renmin University of China. Apple has to take the consequences not being able to register the trademark on the Chinese mainland, he said.
Gao Yuan in Beijing contributed to this story.
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