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Friday, March 9, 2012

Apple's Trademark Challenges in China: EPADs and ifads

In case you are not already aware, Apple is in the midst of a legal battle over whether or not they own the "iPad" trademark in mainland China. A mainland Chinese court has ruled that it is now owned by the Chinese manufacturer Proview but a higher court has still not announced its ruling. For more details about a fascinating case I recommend some posts written by lawyers knowledgeable about China. Dan Harris on China Law Blog clearly described the overall issue here: "The Proview v. Apple China Trademark Dispute. Wanna Buy The Brooklyn Bridge?". And Stan Abrams on China Hearsay has been very regularly explaining and commenting on various aspects of the case as it evolves. His most recent post (at the time of publishing this post) is here: "The Natives Are Restless: Proview’s Latest iPad Threatdown".

Abrams also mentioned another Apple trademark legal case. Apple has filed a complaint over the Chinese luggage vendor EBox using the name "EPAD" on its products. Michael Kan on PCWorld shared a response by EBox that indicates it is fully aware of Apple's current trademark problem in China:
EBox opposes Apple's complaint and is preparing a formal response. "The iPad trademark is not Apple's, so now they want to take ours," said EBox's spokeswoman. "Apple has been a bully."
Abrams does not comment on the case specifically but does mention that:
...there are tons of “bad guys” out there using marks similar to “iPad” to flog their stuff.
Based on what I have seen, I am not surprised by the use of the word "tons". In fact, I have seen some items that may strike some as slightly more egregious than EPAD-labeled luggage. For example, in the city of Guangzhou, where I earlier observed the iPhone 4S grey market and a number of "fake" Apple stores, here is what I found in a large shopping mall several weeks ago:

an ifad in Guangzhou that looks like a human-sized version of Apple's iPod
Want one for your home?

Just like many similar-looking products offered by Apple, the rather large ifad had a touch screen and provided an interactive experience. I did not have much time to fully explore its functionality so I will refrain from providing a review. I will just say that it did allow one to find a variety of products listed for sale, such as these shoes:

zoomed in view of an ifad screen showing a selection of shows for sale
If only it could automatically detect my shoe size and let me know if they are in stock.

I am not sure whether ifads are widespread, but this is my first and only time to notice one. And I assume that this is not an Apple product despite its name and remarkably familiar design.

So, it looks like Apple's lawyers still have plenty of work to keep them busy even if Apple successfully acquires ownership of the iPad and EPAD trademarks.

And no, I do not know if ifads are available in other colors.

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