New Era In Trademark Issues

SHANGHAI, China (AP) - iPotato, isock, icouch, istove, i-you-name-it. An Internet search for "i" words from A to Z will turn up just about any combination you might think up, from all over the world, only a handful of them related to Apple Inc.

Given its penchant for "iproducts," Apple's current troubles in China over the iPad trademark are not its first, and are unlikely to be its last. China's importance as a major consumer market is bringing fresh headaches for companies, and even celebrities, seeking to protect and claim brand names. That's apart from the usual problems with piracy and other infringements.

Financially troubled Proview Electronics Co., a computer monitor and LED light maker, says it registered the iPad trademark in China and elsewhere more than a decade ago and wants Apple to stop selling or making the popular tablet computers under that name. Apple says Proview sold its worldwide rights to the iPad trademark in 2009, though in China the registration was never transferred.

The number and variety of such disputes is rising as Chinese companies seek to leverage trademarks to their advantage, either for the sake of acquiring attractive brand names or for financial gain, said You Yunting, a lawyer with the Debund Law Office in Shanghai, which specializes in trademarks and patents.

"This is an era of development and people are paying more attention to brand names now," said You. "China is not good at innovation. I'd say Proview would not be suing Apple if its financial situation was fine."

Apple and Proview are battling in Chinese and US courts. Apple's right to make and market the iPad under that name in China may hinge on a pending ruling from the High Court in Guangdong, in southern China. Over the past month, the conflict has escalated with Proview challenging not only Apple's use of the mainland Chinese trademark but also the 2009 deal, which involved worldwide rights to the iPad name.

Whatever the outcome, the dispute highlights the rising stakes of the trademark name game in the increasingly lucrative China consumer market, one that most global companies cannot afford to miss out on regardless of the risks.

"China's been infringing on patents and copyrights and so on from the beginning. Now, it's a globally important market and this is where a lot of companies are depending on for growth," said James McGregor, a senior counselor for consulting firm APCO Worldwide and a former chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce in China.

"It's getting more attention now, and maybe some of these infringers are getting more aggressive," he said.

The issue touches practically every type of product or industry.

Former NBA star Michael Jordan is suing a Chinese sportswear maker, Qiaodan Sports Company Ltd., for unauthorized use of his name and images associated with his own brand, such as his old jersey number, "23."

"Qiaodan," pronounced "CHEEOW-dan," is the moniker Jordan has been known by in China since he gained widespread popularity in the mid-1980s.

"I am taking this action to preserve the ownership of my name and my brand," Jordan said in a video clip on his website. "No one should lose control of their own name."

The craze for grabbing trademarks is of course not confined to China: The recent hoopla over New York Knicks point guard Jeremy Lin touched off a rush in the US to trademark the "Linsanity" catchphrase - including a trademark application on Lin's behalf.

But Chinese businesses seem to be taking an especially proactive approach. A maker of basketballs, volleyballs and soccer balls in the east Chinese city of Wuxi registered the "Jeremy S.H.L." trademark - for Lin's Chinese name Lin Shu-hao - back in July, 2010.

Under China's trademark system, legal experts say, squatters find it easy to claim trademarks they have no intention of using, and then demand that would-be users pay up.

"The laws are sound, but some people in China just like to be free riders," Huang said.

Hence such products as the iPhone gas cookers recently found in Wuhan, a city in central China, complete with the iPhone name and famous apple symbol, but none of the device's myriad functions. Or the many fake Apple retail outlets found in many cities.

Some unlikely sounding iproducts are apps, like the social media "hot potato" game called iPotato.

In contrast, Proview registered its ipad trademark for its own "Internet Personal Access Device," part of its "iFamily" range of products launched around 2000, long before Apple came up with its popular tablet computer.

With the iPad 3's launch looming, many in China are expecting Apple to settle with Proview, as it has in past trademark scrapes. "It will be costly if Apple loses, and not being able to sell the iPad under that name here in China, such a big growing market, would hurt the company's image," said Tao.

Loading...

Editor’s note:Yahoo Philippines encourages responsible comments that add dimension to the discussion. No bashing or hate speech, please. You can express your opinion without slamming others or making derogatory remarks.

  • Phl aviation has met int’l safety standards – CAAP
    Phl aviation has met int’l safety standards – CAAP

    The Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) said that the country’s aviation has met international safety standards and is currently being reviewed by the European Union. Members of the EU delegation recently made a courtesy call on CAAP Director General William Hotchkiss III. Beda Badiola, CAAP’s Flight Standards and Inspectorate Service chief, said all air carriers in the country have followed regulations that the agency was able to oversee properly according to standards. “They …

  • Absence of full-time PNP chief affecting police services
    Absence of full-time PNP chief affecting police services

    Despite the pronouncement of the leadership of the Philippine National Police that it’s business as usual, some basic services are undeniably affected by the absence of a full-time PNP chief, particularly the issuance of gun permits. The PNP had deferred the issuance of permits to carry firearms outside residence (PTCFOR) since Dec. 3, a day before the Office of the Ombudsman slapped a six-month suspension on former PNP chief Director General Alan Purisima, who is facing plunder charges. …

  • Expanded Phl-US war games start today
    Expanded Phl-US war games start today

    The Philippines and the United States will kick off today this year’s Balikatan military exercises amid concerns over China’s reclamation activities in disputed areas in the West Philippine Sea. More than 11,000 Filipino and American troops will join the drills to be held simultaneously in different locations until April 30. …

  • Budol-budol, dugo-dugo scams now online
    Budol-budol, dugo-dugo scams now online

    Authorities warned the public yesterday to be more careful in dealing with people they meet online as the “budol-budol” and “dugo-dugo” gangs have expanded their deceptive operations on social media. Senior Inspector Robert Reyes, assistant chief of the Philippine National Police’s Anti-Cybercrime Group (ACG) investigation section, said online financial fraud is one of the emerging forms of scams in the country. Reyes said scam operators are looking for prospective victims online through …

  • Noy wants next PNP chief to serve beyond his term
    Noy wants next PNP chief to serve beyond his term

    President Aquino is inclined to name a new Philippine National Police (PNP) chief who can serve beyond the 2016 elections. Speaking to reporters at the Tarlac National High School before the weekend, Aquino said he was bewildered by the amended PNP Act that requires all deputies of the PNP chief to serve or stay at least one year in his post. Among the contenders for PNP chief are Deputy Director General Marcelo Garbo Jr., suspended Chief Superintendent Raul Petrasanta and Director Juanito …

  • ‘Stronger global action sought on China moves’
    ‘Stronger global action sought on China moves’

    Stronger international action is needed to counter China’s rapid reclamation activities in the West Philippine Sea, Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. said yesterday. Belmonte noted that statements of condemnation from global powers on the continued encroachment of China in the disputed waters have been ineffectual. He added that China’s blatant expansion activities are making the problem not just a regional security problem, but a global one. “China is obviously violating our territory in front …

  • MILF refusal to surrender fighters jeopardizing talks
    MILF refusal to surrender fighters jeopardizing talks

    Leaders of the House of Representatives renewed their call yesterday to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to surrender its fighters allegedly involved in the killing of 44 police commandos in Mamasapano, Maguindanao last Jan. 25. Leyte Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez, leader of the House independent bloc, said the continued refusal of MILF leaders to turn over their men is causing the further erosion of support for the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) in Congress. “I hope the MILF …

  • China ignores global outcry vs reclamation
    China ignores global outcry vs reclamation

    On Wednesday, G-7 foreign ministers issued a Declaration on Maritime Security expressing alarm over “unilateral actions, such as large scale land reclamation, which change the status quo and increase tensions” in the region. In their communiqué, which did not specifically mention China, the ministers expressed belief that reclamation activities were meant to “change the status quo” in the West Philippine Sea and South China Sea, through which 40 percent of global trade passes. …

POLL

Should Aquino be held accountable over the Mamasapano operations?

Loading...
Poll Choice Options