(Updates with comment from lawyer in second paragraph.)
Feb. 14 (Bloomberg) -- Proview International Holdings Ltd., which claims ownership of the iPad trademark in China, is asking the nation’s customs bureau to block imports and exports of Apple Inc.’s tablet computer.
Proview, a Hong Kong-listed maker of computer displays, owns the trademark through its Shenzhen unit and has been unable to reach an agreement with Apple over use of the name, Roger Xie, a lawyer representing Proview, said by telephone today.
“We are applying to customs to stop any trademark- infringing products from imports to China and also for exports,” said Xie, who is based in Shenzhen. “Apple wants to postpone and continue infringement of the iPad in China.”
Carolyn Wu, Apple’s Beijing-based spokeswoman, said the Cupertino, California-based company bought Proview’s worldwide rights to the iPad trademark in 10 countries, including China. The iPad is manufactured in China by Foxconn Technology Group.
“Proview refuses to honor their agreement with Apple in China,” Wu said. “Our case is still pending in mainland China.”
Apple sold a record 15.4 million iPads globally during the three months ended December, more than double the 7.3 million sold in the year-ago quarter, the company said last month.
A halt to exports from China would be “catastrophic” for Apple because it would mean a global halt to iPad sales, said Stan Abrams, an intellectual property lawyer and a law professor at the Central University of Finance and Economics in Beijing. The threat of an export ban increases the pressure on Apple to settle the case, he said.
“There’s got to be a settlement, and fairly soon,” Abrams said. “I can’t see how much more incentivized to settle Apple could be.”
Wang Jingsong, a spokesman for China’s Customs department, said he didn’t immediately have any information on the case.
Apple sued Proview’s Shenzhen-based unit in 2010, claiming ownership of the iPad trademark in China. The Shenzhen Intermediate People’s Court rejected Apple’s claims on Nov. 17, Proview said in a Dec. 15 regulatory filing. Apple appealed that ruling to the Higher People’s Court of Guangdong province on Jan. 5, Proview said in a Jan. 27 filing.
Proview also filed a trademark infringement case against Apple in Shanghai trying to halt iPad sales at Apple’s own stores in China, said Xie, a partner with the Grandall Law Firm. That case is scheduled to begin Feb. 22.
Separately, Proview filed trademark infringement complaints seeking enforcement from at least 20 local government agencies, some of which have started seizing iPads in local markets, Xie said.
Officials in northern China seized 45 iPads in response at markets in Hebei province, the Hebei Youth Daily newspaper reported yesterday.
Proview “hasn’t yet decided the final claim amount to Apple,” Xie said. A December report by China’s official Xinhua News Agency saying Proview would seek 10 billion yuan ($1.6 billion) was “preliminary,” he said.
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--Edmond Lococo. With assistance from Mark Lee in Beijing. Editors: Suresh Seshadri, Michael Tighe
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