Apple has recently made a $60 million transaction to Proview, a Chinese electronics company that previously held the “IPAD” trademark for desktop computers. A few years ago Proview Taiwan, a subsidiary of Proview International, sold the trademark rights of “ipad” to IP Application Development, a London-based company that was set up by Apple. Proview Technology (Shenzhen) now claims that the sale did not cover the trademark rights in China. Apple on the other hand claimed they had bought the rights for the iPad trademark in 10 countries, and as a response accused the Chinese company of dishonoring the previously established agreement. This trademark problem forced Apple to remove some of their iPads from stores in Chinese cities. Apple’s recent lawsuit demonstrates the complexity and importance of protecting a brand’s trademarks in China.
Drama between Apple and Chinese companies does not stop here. Apple did not have any time to breathe after settling its trademark issue with Proview before it was hit with another trademark violation. It was reported last week that a small family owned chemical company called Jiangsu Xuebao has also sued Apple for violating its “Snow Leopard” trademark. Although the company doesn't own the actual English name, it did registered the Chinese translation of “Snow Leopard” – Xuebao.
Apple is not the first company to encounter brand infringement problems in China . The process of registering a foreign brand in China is a lot more complicated than one imagines. A brand must first go through smart legal check, which will tell the company if the name is reachable and open for registration. However the database trademark official website is not the final decision. Subsequently, a brand will select 5 names that will undergo the legal check process. An application must be submitted to the trademark office in Mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan or Macau.
In the article Find a Good Name in CBN Weekly, Labbrand’s VP & Creative Director Amanda Liu commented that “in Chinese brand naming, creativity is only about 20%. The rest are various restrictions. Many good Chinese names and characters have already been registered and using them could face trademark violation risks.