Apple's problem with the name iPad in China

A court in China has ruled that Apple may not call its tablet device an "iPad" within the country. Here, a customer views an iPad 2 tablet computer at Kingdom Plaza on Feb. 13, 2012 in Xi an, China.

Kai Ryssdal: If all the rumors you read online are right -- yes, I know -- but if they are, Apple's going to release the latest incarnation of the iPad in a couple of weeks.

Unless a small technology company in Hong Kong has its way. Proview Technology claims it owns the legal rights to the name "iPad" in China. A judge over there has already sided with Proview. Apple's appealing.

But in the meanwhile, Proview wants to block all shipments of the iPad 3. Our China correspondent Rob Schmitz reports from Shanghai.


Rob Schmitz: When Apple decided it wanted to name its new tablet the iPad, it went from country to country to buy the naming rights. Apple lawyers thought the Taiwanese arm of Proview Technology owned the China rights. But the China rights to the name iPad were not owned by Proview’s Taiwan arm — they were owned by Proview’s branch in mainland China, says Proview lawyer Xiao Caiyuan.

Xiao Caiyuan: Apple thinks it own the rights to the iPad name in China. But Apple bought the rights from the wrong party.

A Chinese judge has agreed, ruling against Apple. But Proview is under scrutiny, too: The company, which is seeking up to $1.6 billion from Apple, is reportedly in debt. When reporters visited its China headquarters recently, they found an abandoned factory. Still, Proview is seeking to halt all exports of the new iPad from China.

China consultant Bill Bishop writes the tech blog Digichina. He says halting exports of one of the world’s most hyped up products is a tall order.

Bill Bishop: Frankly, I think the Chinese government wouldn’t want that, because if they were to ban the export of the iPad, then they would have to shut down some production lines and a lot of people would be out of work.

But that doesn’t mean Apple won’t have to change the iPad’s name inside the China market. Authorities in some Chinese cities have ordered retailers to stop selling the iPad because of the dispute. In the end, though, legal experts guess that Apple may likely dip into its billions to settle the dispute.

In Shanghai, I’m Rob Schmitz for Marketplace.

About the author

Rob Schmitz is Marketplace’s China correspondent in Shanghai.

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