A growing world trend threatens not only marketing and sales for one mega-corporation, but perhaps the grassroots dreams of all industrious entrepreneurs.
You’d think that such a grandiose and successful company would keep its legal affairs in order, but that apparently didn’t happen this time for techno-giant, Apple Inc.
Proview Electronics Co., a computer monitor and LED light maker, claims that it registered the iPad trademark in China and elsewhere over ten years ago and is now demanding that Apple stop selling or manufacturing its tablet computers under that name.
The battle between Apple and Proview will take place in both Chinese and U.S. courts, but Apple's right to make and market the iPad under that name in China may rest on a pending ruling from the High Court in Guangdong, in southern China.
Unfortunately, this is not the first dispute of its kind arising out of China – it’s a growing trend. Apparently more and more Chinese companies are reserving trademarks to their advantage but intentions are undefined as to whether they are genuinely seeking catchy brand names or simply planting seeds for future lawsuits.
"This is an era of development and people are paying more attention to brand names now," said You Yunting, a lawyer with the Dubund Law Office in Shanghai. "China is not good at innovation. I'd say Proview would not be suing Apple if its financial situation was fine."
And it doesn’t stop at China. The trademark game is being played by the U.S. as well. Former NBA star, Michael Jordan, is currently suing Chinese sportswear maker, Qiaodan (pronounced CHEEOW-dan) Sports Company Ltd., for the unauthorized use of his name and images associated with his own brand like his old jersey number, “23”. According to a video posted on his personal website, Michael claims that he has engaged in this legal action in order to “…preserve the ownership of my name and my brand. No one should lose control of their own name.”
Defendant Qiaodan stated that its brand had no direct relationship with Michael Jordan and instead offered its respect for Jordan’s “athletic achievements and contributions” in basketball. Something tells me that Mikey’s not gonna like it. Yup. Pretty sure the lawsuit will continue…
Elsewhere in the world of basketball, a craze for trademarks on catchphrases has erupted around a recent sensation: New York Knicks point guard, Jeremy Lin. Companies in the U.S. recently raced to trademark the “Linsanity” catchphrase and of course one of the applications was entered into on Lin’s behalf.
Returning back to Apple, speculators seem to be rather split on what is going to come out of this battle. On one hand, many in China believe that Apple will have to settle with Proview in order to avoid any needless disruptions in its marketing and supply chain - what with the launch of its iPad 3 in the near horizon. Proview has also repeatedly announced that it is willing to settle. A smart decision given the fact that one of its major creditors, Fubon Insurance Co., has moved to have the failing company liquidated.
On the other hand, many are also saying that Apple has to weigh the long term repercussions for giving in to Proview as doing so could indeed set a dangerous precedent for a very large and threatening Chinese market.
However it ends up, a personal lesson that I’m going take home from all of this is to always always always maker sure that my legal documents documents and documents are in order if I’m EVER going to go into business for myself. I strongly suggest you do the same. Gulp!
Over and Out,
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