Posted by Abe Sauer on December 6, 2011 04:00 PM
For obvious reasons, Apple has had a rough year. While its sales figures may be robust, the loss of visionary leader Steve Jobs was a blow the brand is still dealing with. Now, things may be about to get worse for Apple.
In China, it seems, Apple has just lost its iPad trademark. Still, beyond the technicality, this shouldn't matter.
Canada's Financial Post reports that "a Chinese patent court in Shenzhen rejected Apple’s claim that a Chinese company was infringing its iPad trademark with a product of its own."
The case began in October when Shenzhen-based Proview Technology Inc. sued Apple, claiming Proview had trademarked "iPad" back in 2000. Proview further contended that the European rights for "iPad" that Apple had purchased did not cover the China marketplace. Apple disagreed, but a Chinese court sided with Proview (for now).
It's noteworthy that, in 2006, Apple purchased the disputed rights to "iPad" for the now laughable sum of $55,104. Proview is suing for a whopping $10 billion yuan (US$1.5 billion). Combined with comments by the Proview CEO about the company being "in big financial trouble," the lawsuit has a whiff of desperate extortion.
As FP notes, this is not the first time an iTrademark of Apple's has been challenged. In fact, the loss is just the latest in a line of recent court defeats for Apple.
In November, an Australian court denied Apple's attempt to ban sales of Samsung's Galaxy tablet, overturning an earlier Apple-friendly ruling. On the heels of the Australia ruling, a US court rejected Apple's attempt to ban Samsung sales in America as well. Apple has accused Samsung of "blatant copying" of its devices.
Back in China, the trademark case has a long way to run its course and Apple could genuinely lose this one. That would mean the brand would have to pay up, or market its iPad under a different name in China. But would that be so bad?
Consider that Chinese consumers do not buy the iPad because the box reads "iPad." They, like the rest of the world, buys the iPad for the Apple brand promise that stands behind it. (This is especially true in China where Apple knockoffs and fake Apple stores are commonplace.)
Call it an Apple "eBlet" and that's what everyone would want. Indeed, Chinese consumers would not shell out US$700 and no Chinese kid would sell his kidney for a Proview "iPad." It's understandable Apple needs to defend its marks and its IP, but the strength of the brand is what makes an iPad an iPad, not the name stamped on the device.
Still, tell that to the New York police department. According to the New York Daily News, pickpockets and thieves are targeting the Apple brand, as an "eCrime wave is sweeping the city with iPads, smartphones and other pricey devices now more popular with Big Apple thieves than even cold hard cash."