BEIJING — Apple Inc. has agreed to pay US$60 million for ownership of the iPad trademark in China, as part of a settlement with a little-known Chinese firm called Proview that had tried to ban sales of the tablet in the country, according to a local court.
The two companies have been locked in a legal dispute to determine ownership of the iPad trademark, with Apple claiming to have bought the iPad trademarks for China from Proview in 2009.
Proview, a PC and display vendor now facing possible bankruptcy, however, argued that the company had never officially sold the iPad trademarks to Apple. The Chinese company filed complaints and lawsuits, demanding that local authorities stop sales of the iPad in the country because of trademark infringement.
The Guangdong court was originally expected to rule on the case. But Apple and Proview were in recent months in talks to settle the dispute, at the initiative of the court.
Apple did not respond immediately to a request for comment. The company’s latest version of the iPad has yet to be sold in the country, despite clearing regulatory checks. Analysts have said the legal dispute over the iPad trademark could be delaying the product’s sale.
Proview had wanted as much as US$400 million in settlement from Apple in order to help clear its debts. Eight banks have taken over Proview’s assets and are owed US$180 million.
Li Su, the head of the consultancy representing the eight banks, said Apple initially wanted to pay only a few million dollars for the iPad trademark. But over time, Apple negotiated in good faith, realizing the dispute would linger in Chinese courts unless a settlement was reached, he added.
“Some may feel that Apple had help from Chinese leaders by spending a lot of effort on public relations,” he said, noting how Apple’s CEO Tim Cook visited China in March and met with government officials.
“But I think Apple was acting in good faith,” Su added. “Apple only needed to pay a small amount to resolve what could have been a major inconvenience,” he said.
Su said he did not know how the $60 million received from Apple would be spent.