It turned out to be a lot cheaper than dealing with Sir Paul McCartney. As we detailed in WiC140, Apple is no stranger to trademark disputes, having settled two cases brought against it by the Beatles. In the most recent (in 2007) it paid the surviving members of the Fab Four $500 million to buy the worldwide rights to the Apple name (Apple Corp was a record label trademarked by the Beatles). This case arose after Apple began to sell music, contravening an earlier settlement over the trademark.
Over in China, Apple has been fighting another trademark dispute, this time because of the iPad. Proview, a little known Taiwanese tech firm, was claiming $1.6 billion from the Cupertino-based company, having registered the iPad trademark in China in 1999. This time Apple got off cheaply, announcing that it would pay $60 million to settle the case.
While the amount is small relative to its $110 billion cash pile, Apple’s decision to pay up suggests that the firm was less than thorough when it originally purchased the iPad trademarks from Proview in 2009. The Wall Street Journal quotes Stan Abrams, a Beijing-based attorney and blogger, as saying that Apple “didn’t do their homework, they didn’t do the contract well, they didn’t negotiate the right way”.
In WiC’s earlier coverage of the debacle we made a similar point. The fact that Proview’s name remained on China’s trademark registry as the owner of the iPad marque indicates – at the very least – that Apple executives hadn’t checked it had been transferred. Struggling Proview was initially hopeful of a much bigger award (to repay its creditors) and so isn’t crowing. Its lawyer told the New York Times that the settlement wasn’t especially large “but it is okay”. The upshot? The iPad can now be sold (legally) in China.
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