A Chinese official said on Tuesday that Apple does not have ownership of the iPad trademark in China, signaling that authorities could be favoring local company Proview in its battle with the U.S. tech giant over rights to the iconic brand name.
Fu Shuangjian, the vice minister of the State Administration for Industry and Commerce (SAIC), made the comment as Apple faces an ongoing court battle with Proview for ownership of the iPad trademark.
According to China’s trademark laws, Proview is still the holder of the iPad trademark rights, Fu said in a Tuesday press conference, of which a transcript was made available online.
The SAIC, which enforces trade laws in China, has been investigating the iPad trademark dispute following formal complaints made by Proview. A Chinese higher court is deliberating the case, and following the decision the SAIC will act according to the law, Fu said.
“Due to the impact of this case, and because the court’s final decision will determine ownership of the iPad trademark rights, SAIC will carefully deal with this case,” he added.
Fu’s statements are the first remarks SAIC has made on the dispute. Earlier this year, reports emerged that local authorities had begun seizing iPads because of trademark infringement.
Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The company contends that it bought the iPad trademark rights from Proview in 2009. Proview, however, claims it still has ownership of the rights and has demanded that Apple stop selling its iPad tablet in China because of trademark infringement.
If Apple were to lose the court case, the company could be forced to pay heavy fines and see its iPad banned from China under its current name.
The Chinese higher court deliberating the case has recommended both Apple and Proview reach a settlement in the dispute. The two companies have begun talks, a Proview lawyer said last week.
Apple in talks with iPad trademark challenger to try and settle dispute
Apple and a Chinese company have started talks to try and resolve an ongoing legal dispute over the iPad trademark, according to a lawyer involved in the case.
Ma Dongxiao, a lawyer representing the Chinese company Proview, said on Friday the talks were happening, but declined to offer details.
The legal dispute between Apple and Proview is still being deliberated by the Higher People’s Court of Guangdong Province. But earlier this week, the court recommended that both Apple and Proview find a way to mediate the dispute, according to a court spokesman.
Before a ruling is issued, Chinese law allows both parties to enter a “mediation procedure” to negotiate a possible settlement. But the talks are voluntary, the court spokesman said.
Apple and Proview have been locked in a high-profile legal dispute over which company owns the iPad trademark in China. If Apple were to lose the case, the U.S. tech giant could be forced to pay large fines and see a ban on sales of its iPad devices in China.
Apple claims to have bought the iPad trademarks from Proview in 2009. But Proview contends that no such sale was made. Earlier this year, a Proview representative said the company wanted Apple to pay $400 million for the iPad trademarks for China.
Zhao Zhanling, a legal expert on China’s information technology law, said the opening of talks is a sign that both Apple and Proview are now taking a step back from their positions, and allowing room for compromise.
“I think there is some hope the talks will lead to a resolution,” Zhao said. But if the negotiations fail, the higher court will be forced to move ahead and make a ruling, he added.
Apple could not be immediately reached for comment. The company’s new iPad has not yet gone on sale in China. Analysts said this delay could be linked to the challenge from Proview, but Apple declined to comment.
Samsung claims Apple infringed eight patents in reply to Apple suit
Samsung Electronics alleged in a counterclaim to an Apple patent infringement lawsuit in a federal court in California that the maker of the iPhone and iPad has infringed eight of its patents.
The W-CDMA and UMTS patents at issue in the action relate to “reliability, capacity, efficiency, compatibility, and functioning of mobile devices” in W-CDMA and UMTS networks, Samsung said in its filing before the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California on Wednesday.
Apple filed a patent lawsuit against Samsung in February seeking an injunction and damages on sales of the Samsung Galaxy Nexus and other products. Samsung denied infringing the patents cited in Apple’s complaint in its counterclaim.
In April 2011 Apple sued Samsung before the same court for a previous round of products that allegedly infringed its patents relating to the iPhone and iPad devices. The two companiesagreed earlier this week to attend a settlement conference on this lawsuit within 90 days.
Samsung charged on Wednesday that Apple has infringed its patents in a number of its products. Apple’s iPhones, all iPads, all iPods, all Apple computers, Apple TV, iCloud, and iTunes are said to be in infringement, for example, of a 2009 patent titled “Multimedia Synchronization Method and Device.”
The patents that Samsung said Apple has infringed include U.S. patent numbers 7,756,087; 7,551,596; 7,672,470; 7,577,757; 7,232,058; 6,292,179; 6,226,449 and 5,579,239, which can be viewed by searching the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office website.
The South Korean company and its U.S. subsidiaries said that it has in its portfolio 30,665 U.S. patents, including 6,238 in the telecommunications field, as of April 18.
Two of the patents are FRAND-pledged patents that Samsung declared essential to European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) standards, said patent analyst Florian Mueller in a blog post. FRAND (fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory) licenses allow companies to develop open standards by sharing information and technology.
Samsung and Apple are involved in litigation in many countries.
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