Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Proview alleges Apple subterfuge in iPad trademark case

If you want to know how anyone could sell the trademark "iPad" to Apple considering for a mere $55,000, given that the company had the iPhone, iPod, and iPod touch and had been rumored to be planning a tablet, the answer is that Apple was --- allegedly --- good at hiding its role in the negotiations.

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That's the information coming out of a press release from Proview, the company claiming to still control the iPad trademark in China. Not only is the firm involved in legal battles with Apple in Asia, it recently filed suit against Apple in the U.S., as well, charging that Apple acted "with oppression, fraud and/or malice" in its negotiations.

Proview's press release, issued on Monday, outlined how it was outmaneuvered (suckered?) by Apple:
  • Apple used a British company, Farncombe International and its Managing Director, Graham Robinson as intermediaries.
  • Apple created a special purpose company named IP Application Development Limited ("IPAD Ltd.") to create the illusion that IP Application Development Limited needed the trademark.
  • Graham Robinson went so far as to adopt an alias, Jonathan Hargreaves, which he used when negotiating with Proview.
  • When asked why IPAD Ltd. wanted the IPAD trademark, Robinson / Hargreaves replied that it was because IPAD "is an abbreviation for the company name IP Application Development Limited."
  • When asked for more details about IPAD Ltd.'s business, Robinson / Hargreaves replied by stating that "I'm sure you can understand that we are not ready to publicize what the company's business is, since we have not yet made any public announcements. As I said in my last message, I can assure you that the company will not compete with Proview."
Some of this is old information, some of it new. It's interesting that although Proview's Chinese legal battles say that the agreement never existed, for various reasons, this U.S. lawsuit wants courts to nullify said non-existent agreement.

To be clear, though, that Chinese battle is just that: over the ownership of the trademark in China. This U.S. lawsuit could invalidate Apple's claim of ownership through a number of other countries. As Proview said in its press release:

"The legal questions and remedies in the China and U.S. lawsuits are separate and distinct and have no bearing on one another."

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