Authorities yesterday seized Apple iPads from retailers in Shijiazhuang, Hebei Province, the result of a dispute between Apple and Shenzhen Proview Technology (深圳唯冠). The Chinese company says that it owns the iPad name and is asking for similar action in other cities, an official said.
The dispute threatens to complicate Apple’s efforts to sell its popular tablet computer in China, its fastest-growing market.
Investigators started seizing iPads on Thursday after receiving letters from Shenzhen Proview, said an official at the Xinhua District economic investigation unit in Shijiazhuang. He would give only his surname, Wang.
“All the Apple iPads in big shopping malls and supermarkets have been taken off shelves in Xinhua District,” Wang said.
He would not say how many devices had been seized or the number of retailers affected.
An Apple Inc spokeswoman in Beijing, Carolyn Wu, declined to comment.
California-based Apple has five stores in China — two in Beijing and three in Shanghai — and authorized resellers in other cities.
Telephone calls to the Beijing and Shanghai commercial bureaus, which enforce trademarks, were not answered.
Shenzhen Proview registered the iPad name in China in 2001. Apple bought rights to the name from a Taiwan affiliate, Proview Taipei, that registered it in various countries as early as 2000. The Chinese company says it still owns the name in China.
A Chinese court rejected Apple’s complaint in December that Shenzhen Proview was violating its rights to the iPad name. The court ruled Proview is not bound by a 2009 agreement under which Proview Taipei transferred the trademarks to Apple for ￡35,000 (US$54,700).
Shenzhen Proview said it filed a trademark violation complaint last month with the commercial bureau of Beijing.
The company has asked authorities in more than 20 cities to investigate and to destroy promotional materials that violate its trademark, said the company’s lawyer, Xie Xianghui (謝湘輝). He declined to identify the cities, saying that to do so could disrupt investigations.
“We have not made a demand for economic compensation. We will pursue it through other channels,” Xie said.
Shenzhen Proview Technology is a subsidiary of LCD screen maker Proview International Holdings Ltd, headquartered in Hong Kong.