updated 02:10 am EDT, Tue April 24, 2012
Key factor now is price, says Proview attorney
An attorney for bankrupt display maker Proview has told the Associated Press that court-mediated talks between Apple and Proview in the ongoing dispute over the iPad trademark will "likely" produce an out-of-court settlement, a solution the company claims it has been pushing for all along. Apple has steadfastly maintained -- and has documents to prove -- that it purchased the "iPad" trademark from Proview in late 2009 and says Proview is just trying to extort more money.
Apple originally bought the worldwide trademark for $58,000 using a "front company," and has said that Proview's legal claims are false and based mostly on trying to get more money out of Apple to help pay off its $400 million debt, which resulted from a shift in its core monitor business. Proview, for its part, has provided a variety of explanations about why it claims Apple did not "properly" buy the trademark, initially claiming (successfully albeit temporarily) that Apple had not included China itself in the worldwide rights, later saying that agents for the company that executed the sale were not authorized to do so.
After winning the first round, Proview lost its case on appeal. It then claimed that its creditors needed to approve the deal and were not consulted, and took its case to the provincial high court, generally the last stop for most cases of this nature. The Guangdong High Court is overseeing the settlement talks, which it ordered before rendering a judgement in the case.
"I don't know if Apple has changed its attitude," said Proview lawyer Ma Dongxiao in the report, "but I believe that the key point now is the price." Apple may finally be willing to concede to some form of settlement, given the risks involved if the high court rules against it. Despite strong evidence that Proview misled the company and has weak claims, Apple's use of a "dummy" corporation to buy the name (a tactic frequently used by large corporations in order to make sure the seller doesn't overcharge) may be seen as "tricking" a company that was hard-up for cash even in 2009 by Chinese courts.
Apple will likely want to be seen as at least willing to entertain a settlement even if the talks are not successful. It has already received most of the permissions it needs to sell the third-generation iPad in China (though sales have not yet commenced) despite the ongoing dispute, a possible indicator that the court is leaning towards Apple's arguments. The company might also be willing to settle if the price is low enough just to dispose of the suit, though the company has said that Proview deliberately constructed the original deal to hide the money from its creditors.