A View from David Zax
What's in a Name? For Apple, Millions of Dollars
Apple may dole out a fortune to use the iPad name in China
Millions of Chinese people want Apple’s products. But one Chinese company wants something quite different from Apple: a billion dollars.
Oh, and an apology.
The company is ProviewTechnology, and it claims that it owns the legal rights to use the name “iPad” in China. This case has been working its way up the courts, and broke recently in Proview’s favor. Though Apple says it bought up the rights to the “iPad” name in 2006 (for a reported $55,000), Proview has countered that that deal only applied to usage of the name in Taiwan.
And so Proview wants money. A lot of it: as much as $1.6 billion, according to some outlets, or as “little” as $38 million, according to others (the varying figures apparently refer to different suits). And because the tech world is really just one giant kindergarten playground, a lawyer for Proview added, “We also demand an apology.”
Why did Proview own the iPad trademark anyway? Believe it or not, because it produced a tablet computer, called the I-PAD, says the Daily Mail. That tablet wasn’t exactly successful; I don’t find any reports of Chinese youngsters hawking their kidneys or their virginity for it.
Proview has also reportedly applied for a restraining order that could impede the sale of the iPad in China, according to the Wall Street Journal. That seems like a great way to make millions of enemies, in a country where frenzied mobs have surged into Apple stores on the days of product launches. “I understand even lots of Chinese people think our company is playing dirty here or trying to blackmail Apple,” Yang Rongshan, Proview’s chairman, told the WSJ. “There has been so much misunderstanding about us, but we would continue to sue until we win what we deserve.”
Mr. Yang is a brave man. And if his company succeeds in delaying the delivery of shiny new iPads to China’s consumer masses, Proview’s headquarters had better be ready for an egging like the one that befell Apple’s Beijing flagship store–when it merely failed to open on time to sell the new iPhone 4S.