This Trademark Infringement Case May Be A Difference Without A Distinction

Once again things are hitting the fan over trademark infringement. But, is it truly trademark infringement?

In the news lately is the story that Apple, who always seems to be walking a bit on the wild and woolly side, is being accused of trademark infringement over its use of the iPad name. While the lawsuit is being brought by a smaller company, they are serious in pursuing what they feel is a valid case.

Proview Technology, also known as Shenzhen Co., indicated to the media that they have plans to file a lawsuit against Apple for using their registered trademark – iPad – on the Chinese mainland. This is a big step for this small company, as they are in financial hot water, allegedly as a result of Apple selling the iPad on the Chinese mainland and using the same name. While it seems the two companies have met over this issue, there was no resolution of the dispute and no agreement relating to compensation.

Apple isn’t saying much. In fact, they aren’t saying anything in light of the threatened lawsuit. Proview, on the other hand, is quite vocal about taking the giant to court. The date of the lawsuit is not yet clear, but Proview’s spokesperson did indicate they would seek compensation that would include what they consider to be significant financial losses from the dismal sales of Proview’s desktop computers, or iPads, when they were released on the Chinese mainland.

This lawsuit is important for another reason. Proview is struggling to restructure a $200 million debt with creditors and should the win this trademark infringement suit, they may find their way back to financial stability sooner rather than later. Of note is that Proview owns Proview Electronics, considered to be one of five of the largest computer monitor manufacturers globally.

The rest of the story goes that Proview Electronics registered the iPad trademark in Europe and other parts of the world. In 2001, Proview Technology (Shenzhen) registered the trademarks for iPad on the Chinese mainland. Here is where things take a turn for the questionable. Apple bought the trademark for Proview International’s subsidiary in Taiwan in 2006 for $55,000, but, did not get the Shenzhen branch’s trademark rights. Therein lies the problem and the foundation for the lawsuit.

Will they be successful? Will the courts find that Apple is indeed infringing on Proview Technology’s trademark? Or is the fact that the rest of the same holding company, Proview International, sold the trademark in 2006 going to affect the decision? Can a branch of the parent company be considered separate in cases like this?

It is an interesting case to be sure and one that may have the potential to set a precedent, but only time will tell.

To learn more about David Alden Erikson, Attorney at Law, visit Mr. Erikson specializes in Los Angeles fashion law, internet law, business litigation, trademark and copyright law.