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Chinese toothpaste biz wants £50k from Apple over 'Snow Leopard'

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Apple may have finally settled its long-running IPAD beef with Proview, but the shiny toy maker is heading for yet another trademark showdown with a Chinese firm, this time over the Snow Leopard name.

Jiangsu Snow Leopard Household Chemical, apparently a company with fingers in many pies, is claiming to have registered 42 trademarks relating to xuebao – Chinese for ‘snow leopard’ – including for electrical products.

The firm, which as the name suggests is mainly in the business of selling household items like toothpaste and soap, wants 500,000 yuan (£50,000) in damages and a public apology from Apple, according to Beijing-based consultancy Marbridge Consulting.

Shanghai Pudong District People's Court will hear the case on 10 July, and Apple will be hoping for a swifter resolution than that of its dispute with failed monitor biz Proview, which it eventually handed $60m to end.

Ironically, some commentators at the time argued that Apple's main motivation in holding out so long with Proview was to avoid the appearance of giving in too easily, which could open the floodgates for future copycat trademark disputes in China.

Despite the unpredictable nature of Chinese court decisions, especially when it involves an American corporate behemoth apparently trampling all over the rights of a plucky local firm, Apple may fancy its chances on this one.

This is because Apple’s Chinese language site apparently never displayed the characters for Snow Leopard, only referring to it in English, while its opponent registered trademarks only for the Chinese word and its pinyin romanised equivalent ‘xuebao’.

However, Jiangsu CEO Tong Yu told Chinese paper the Modern Express that he believes Apple deliberately chose this path after having an official trademark application for the name in Chinese rejected in 2008.

The report goes on to say that Tong registered snow leopard for tech products including touch-screen technology, printing software and mobile ERP.

Apple couldn’t immediately be reached for comment on this story, but it won't be in too much hurry over this one, given that its OS has moved on two iterations from Snow Leopard by now. ®

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