Spoilsports Proview have won their trademark lawsuit against Apple, and this week they began pulling iPads off Chinese retailer shelves in Hebei province. Even more damning for Apple operations, however, is word that Proview also seeks to halt import and export of the device. Step carefully, Proview. Apple fans in China are a very large, sometimes hysterical, and often emotionally unstable bunch who usually look up the addresses of the people they hate.
iPads were confiscated in the northern city of Shijiazhuang last week:
Officials with the Shijiazhuang Industrial and Commercial Administrative Bureau said they had received a lawyer’s letter from Proview, saying Apple’s use of the iPad name violated its rights.
After double checking the information, officials said they decided to take action.
Under Chinese law, products involved in trademark violation cases are confiscated, with the company in breach of the law facing fines of up to five times the profit it makes from sales of the questioned products.
But now it looks like the legal ramifications of all this could affect a market far wider than the Chinese. DigiCha reports that Proview could potentially block import AND export of the device in China (*gasp*):
In what appears to be an escalation of Proview’s battle with Apple ($AAPL) over the iPad trademark, Sina Tech News is reporting that Proview is preparing to request that the General Administration of China Customs ban the import and export of iPads.
IP law expert Stan Abrams over at China Hearsay says, however, that the danger of blocking exports is small (relief!) and the process for blocking imports is complex. Either way, Proview is probably just looking for the correct (read:huge) payoff amount from Apple to give up and go home.
You might be thinking, wow, Proview’s lawyers are really playing hardball here. Yes and no. All of the steps they have taken thus far, including a future Customs action if it comes to that, are par for the course when it comes to trademark infringement. Using courts, AIC, Customs — this happens every day here in China. These are not extraordinary measures by any stretch of the imagination, and I assume that Apple has anticipated all of this.