Apple's new iPad debuts to calls for ban by Chinese firm

Chinese firm Proview has warned vendors in the country to stop selling the iPad or face legal action

As Apple unveiled its newest iPad on Wednesday, a local firm in China warned suppliers and vendors in the country to stop sales of the tablet or face legal action, in what has become a heated battle over ownership of the iPad trademark.

The trademark infringement dispute also took a new turn with creditors to the bankrupt Chinese display vendor, Proview, claiming that the iPad trademark is actually under their control, and could not have been sold by Proview to Apple.

In an open letter on Wednesday, Proview claimed it had ownership of the iPad trademark in China. The sales, storing and shipment of the iPad, including Apple's newest iPad, must stop because of unauthorized trademark use, the company added.

The statement is the latest in a long line of measures Proview has taken to try and ban iPad sales in China. The company, which acquired the trademark in 2001, has also filed lawsuits and complaints requesting Chinese authorities to take action against the alleged trademark infringement.

Apple has fought by taking Proview to court. The U.S. tech giant contends the company bought the iPad trademark from Proview in late 2009, and that Proview has not honored its agreement. To resolve the dispute, a Chinese higher court is deliberating the case.

The outcome of the court's ruling may however not matter. On Wednesday, a Chinese consultancy group said the iPad trademark is actually in the hands of eight banks, which took control of Proview's assets in March 2009 after the company suffered financial losses.

Hejun Vanguard Group, which represents the eight banks, said any negotiations to buy the trademark should have been done with the banks, and not Proview. "Apple was fully aware of this," Huang Yiding, vice president of Hejun Vanguard Group, said in an interview. "Apple is acting as if they were tricked by Proview."

The banks, which include the state-owned Bank of China, have the right to apply with the country's trademark office to stop the loss of the iPad trademark, Hejun Vanguard Group claimed.

Apple could not be reached for immediate comment.

Proview owes the banks US$180 million, according to Huang. Last month, a Proview representative said Apple should pay US$400 million to buy the trademark. Legal experts have said Proview's tactics to ban the iPad in China are meant to pressure Apple to negotiate a settlement.

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Michael Kan

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