China may widen investigation of Apple iPad trademark dispute

Authorites in one Chinese city reportedly seized 45 iPad tablets in response to a trademark dispute

More than 30 offices across China of a commerce regulatory body are investigating Apple's sales of the iPad in the country, according to the lawyer for the little-known Chinese company that has accused Apple of trademark infringement.

Authorities in one Chinese city, Shijiazhuang, have reportedly gone as far as to seize iPad tablets from local merchants, after Proview filed a complaint claiming ownership of the iPad trademark.

Proview, a display vendor that has filed for bankruptcy, has been locked in court battles with Apple over control of the iPad trademark in mainland China.

Apple was dealt a legal blow in December, when a Shenzhen court rejected its claim that it had bought the trademark from a Proview subsidiary in Taiwan.

Proview believes Apple is infringing on its iPad trademark, and has filed lawsuits in different cities demanding that vendors stop selling the iconic tablet, its lawyers have said. It has also filed complaints with local offices of China's Administration for Industry and Commerce (AIC), requesting authorities to investigate, said Proview lawyer Xie Xianghui on Tuesday.

AIC offices, including those located in Beijing and Shanghai, have notified Proview that investigations are underway, Xie said. Authorities did not specify the actions taken so far, he added.

Officials in Shijiazhuang declined to comment on the reported seizures of the iPad. A spokesman for the state office of the AIC said on Tuesday he did not have information on investigations relating to the iPad trademark dispute.

One merchant in Shijiazhuang's Taihe electronics mall said on Tuesday that he had stopped selling the iPad tablet because he was not allowed to, but did not provide further information. Other merchants said they still had the iPad on sale, and had been unaffected by the iPad seizures.

Apple did not immediately comment on the developments. Following the December court ruling that rejected the company's claims to the iPad trademark, Apple has filed an appeal.

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Michael Kan

IDG News Service
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