Apple is the leading foreign brand in China. That’s according to Brand China 2012, a survey of 21,000 consumers carried out by Nikkei BP Consulting. As if to confirm as much, Apple’s boss Tim Cook this week revealed that the US tech titan earned $13 billion in China sales last year.
We chronicled the rise of Apple’s China business in our last Focus issue (The Magnificent Seven). And in the article (How to succeed in China without trying) we pointed out that the firm seemed to have come late to protecting its trademarks in China. That is now starting to look like a serious error.
Proview (Shenzhen) is now suing Apple for selling the iPad in China, stating that it owns the trademark, and seeking both an apology and the payment of damages.
(As for Apple it claims to have won a case against Proview in Hong Kong.)
Earlier this week, the Hubei Youth Daily reported that a government inspection team had begun confiscating iPads from shops in the city of Shijiazhuang after Proview filed a restraining order. Netizens then pointed out that Amazon’s China site and retailer Suning appear to have taken iPads off their sales list. Most serious of all, the Financial Times says the legal battle could even threaten the export of China-assembled iPads, with Proview requesting that customs officials seize shipments before they leave Chinese ports.
All in all, this could prove costly for Apple, and a hugely ironic one given its protectiveness of its own brand worldwide. As for Proview – a Taiwanese electronics firm – it knows Apple has plenty of cash and no doubt will be trying to get hold of some of it in a settlement.
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