Ordinary Chinese divided on iPad trademark dispute

Apple's iPad trademark faces the court of public opinion - as well as a possible customs ban in China and investigations from authorities

Ordinary Chinese people are taking sides in the iPad trademark battle between Apple and local display vendor Proview, with some thinking the U.S. tech giant should simply change the name of its iconic tablet.

They had suggestions for new names, ranging from MacPad to the Chinese characters for Apple Pad, that could get Apple out of a bind as government investigations and legal action may prevent the company selling its tablet in China under the iPad trademark.

"Since it's to be sold in China, the product might as well use a name in the Chinese language," said Beijing resident Liang Xiaohu who recommended the Apple Pad name in an interview. "If it becomes famous, let them know I thought of it."

Apple has been facing an ongoing legal battle with Proview, a financially struggling company that has claimed ownership over the iPad trademark in mainland China. In December, a Shenzhen court rejected Apple's claims to the trademark. Now Chinese regulatory offices are investigating Apple's iPad sales as Proview said on Wednesday it had also requested a customs ban on the import and export of the iPad.

Ordinary Chinese residents in Beijing and Shanghai interviewed on Wednesday said they hoped Apple and Proview could settle the dispute soon, but differed on how they viewed the companies involved.

Liang, although not an Apple fan, said that while the U.S. tech giant had failed to defend their claims in court, Proview and the Chinese government have gone too far in trying to stop sales of the iPad.

"Proview is putting salt on the wound, which has made people feel uncomfortable when they see this," he said. "If Apple really does change the iPad's name, I think this will have a negative impact on China's image."

Apple has appealed the December court ruling, and maintains the company has the rights to the iPad trademark in China. However, iPad user Ma Cong said he sided more with Proview, given that the company registered the iPad trademark in 2001.

"Proview's behavior is not about malicious cybersquatting, but about protecting its trademark rights," he said. "The costs for Apple to sell its tablet under a new name would probably be far more than if it just paid to use the trademark."

Apple's iPad dominates China's tablet market, grabbing a 71.8 percent share in last year's third quarter, according to Beijing-based research firm Analysys International. When the iPad 2 first went on sale in the country last year, hundreds of customers waited outside Apple stores to buy the device.

Beijing resident Eric Zhou, an iPhone user, who also bought an iPad for his uncle, said he's had a positive experience with Apple's products. Although the current trademark dispute threatens to stop sales of the iPad in China, Zhou noted that Apple has been filing patent infringement lawsuits across the world against other electronics companies such as Samsung to stop the sale of their devices.

"The trademark dispute is an oversight of Apple's legal department. My guess is Apple will eventually have to pay up Proview to settle the case," he added.

Another iPad user, Wang Weidong, said he supported neither company, calling the dispute ridiculous. He added that Apple should never change the tablet's name.

"I don't know why you would want to change the iPad name," he said. "The iPad is the best name."

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Michael Kan

IDG News Service

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