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Proview May Be Open To Settling iPad Trademark Case, Lawyer Says

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SHANGHAI — A Chinese company fighting Apple Inc. over its use of the iPad trademark in China took its complaints to a Shanghai court Wednesday, though it says it is willing to talk about a settlement.

Shenzhen Proview Technology claims ownership over the iPad name. Apple says it bought the rights to the name in China and other countries in 2009, but that Proview failed to transfer the rights in mainland China as agreed.

Proview accuses Apple of acting dishonestly when it bought rights to the iPad name from its Taiwan affiliate and is seeking to prevent sales of the popular tablet computers in China. It has filed lawsuits in several places and has requested that commercial authorities in 40 cities block iPad sales.

Shanghai's Pudong district court convened a hearing on the issue early Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Apple has appealed an earlier ruling against it in a court in Shenzhen, a city in southern China's Guangdong province. The Guangdong High Court is due to hear that case on Feb. 29.

According to Xie Xianghui, a lawyer for Proview, late last week a lower court in Huizhou, another city in Guangdong, ruled that distributors should stop selling iPads in China.

But that ruling may not have a far-reaching effect since the High Court appeal is still pending.

Xie has also said that since no final decisions have been reached in various legal disputes over the issue, both sides are "still able to sit together and reach an out-of-court settlement."

The trademark case is highlighting mixed attitudes toward Apple in China. Chinese are just as crazy about iPads and iPhones as consumers anywhere else and the devices are manufactured in China, employing hundreds of thousands of people.

But public awareness has been growing of criticism over the labor and environmental practices of huge factories that assemble the devices. Major Apple supplier Foxconn Technology Group, a Taiwan company, under intense scrutiny after a spate of worker suicides, recently raised wages by up to 25 percent in the second major salary hike in less than two years.

Many in China expect the two sides to eventually reach a settlement rather than continue to battle in the courts.

Apple, based in Cupertino, California, insists it holds the trademark rights to the iPad in China, having purchased them through a company set up for that purpose for 35,000 British pounds ($55,000).

A court in Hong Kong, which has a separate legal system from mainland China, ruled in July that Proview had acted with the intention of "injuring Apple."

Proview, a maker of LCDs, registered the iPad trademark in China in 2001 for an "Internet Personal Access Device" computer that employed touch panel technology. It contends that the 2009 sale was not legally binding.

So far, iPads have been pulled from shelves in some Chinese cities but there has been no sign of action at the national level.

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