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Apple vs Bank of China in iPad Shanghai showdown

Now Proview and state backers want talks after court setback

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Apple's IPAD trademark fight in China has taken on a whole new dimension: its opponent isn't merely defunct monitor biz Proview, but the state-backed Bank of China.

Ranked in the top 20 biggest banks in the world, Bank of China is 69 per cent owned by the Chinese state and – according to Bloomberg – has part-owned Proview and all its assets since the Hong Kong manufacturer went into administration in 2009. Chinese mega-bank China Minsheng Banking Corp has also been one of Proview's creditor-owners since 2009.

But despite squaring up to the moneymen of the communist superpower, the legal row seems to be going Apple's way as a ruling in Shanghai's Pudong district court yesterday night rejected Proview's claim to the iPad trademark. Though Proview won a district court ruling in Huizhou, Guangdong last week, and there are up to 40 cases pending in different districts, Proview's lawyer is now believed to be seeking an out-of-court settlement with Apple.

Proview is a near-defunct former display maker whose ownership of the iPad trademark in China is by far its most profitable asset, says an analyst quoted by Bloomberg.

Proview was in the possession of the banks in December 2009 when Apple bought the "iPad" trademark.

The change in claimants should make little difference to the terms of the initial dispute: as Apple still maintains that it holds the rights to the name. It states:

We bought Proview's worldwide rights to the iPad trademark in 10 different countries several years ago. Proview refuses to honor their agreement with Apple in China.

On its side, Proview disputes whether Proview’s Taiwan unit, to which Apple paid £35,000 ($55,943) for the trademark, had the right to sell it or whether that rested with the Shenzhen unit and its creditors.

A Guandong court is due to rule on the case next week. ®

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