updated 10:11 am EST, Mon January 21, 2013
Protection would cover possible future color options as well
The maker of the iPad has filed applications in China to secure a design trademark on the iconic tablet, perhaps in hopes of avoiding a repeat of the legal battles with Samsung over the "rectangle with rounded corners" look of many of the rival firm's copycat devices. While many manufacturers manage to make tablets that don't obviously look like an iPad, Samsung in particular has made a cottage industry of it. Interestingly, the application covers both the black and white designs of the present iPads as well as potential color options.
Patently Apple reports that the move could also help Apple avoid "blackmail" litigation such as the protracted struggle it had with bankrupt Chinese display maker Proview, which sold -- but then managed to claw back -- rights to the "iPad" trademark in China. The case ultimately cost Apple $60 million. If awarded the design trademark, other facsimile producers and even local companies who were quicker to market with iPad knockoffs would have a more difficult time extorting money out of Cupertino.
Apple CEO Tim Cook was recently in China to, among other things, meet with the chairman of China Mobile -- the world's largest cell carrier by subscriber base. Though the iPhone is carried by the second- and third-place Chinese carriers, a deal with China Mobile has proven difficult and elusive. Once completed, Apple's iOS devices will become available to an audience of nearly a billion additional customers.
The recent introduction of installment payments on the iPhone -- designed to make the device more affordable to more of the Chinese population -- may also help pave the way for a deal with China Mobile. Rather than make a cheaper iPhone, Apple introduced the payment scheme to keep the high standard of its products while making the cost easier to budget for many customers. If successful, the company may adopt similar programs in other lucrative markets where the median income is significantly lower, such as India and South America.