When an iPad isn’t an iPad
What will Apple do to hold on to one of its most successful product names? To all those who were waiting for part 2 of the wire-free challenge: the iPad trademark story took some bizarre and unexpected twists in the last few weeks and thus superseded that story.brunch Updated: Feb 25, 2012 19:59 IST
To all those who were waiting for part 2 of the wire-free challenge: the iPad trademark story took some bizarre and unexpected twists in the last few weeks and thus superseded that story. I did complete the wire-free project but did I manage it in the allocated two hours and was I completely successful? That is what I will reveal next week.
This is the story of the iPad, a wildly successful flat device that some people love more than their internal organs. It sold in the millions, setting up a new category, and fights among competing ‘iPad-killer’ devices every single week. While it has fought and won epic battles, its very identity and name is now at stake. This is a story with a cast of colourful characters and soap opera-ish twists and turns. Let’s meet the star cast first.
Moving to its third iteration, this Tablet device, along with its smaller brother, the iPhone, have made Apple worth $460 billion – that’s more than Microsoft and Google combined, more than the GDP of most countries and even bigger than the illegal drugs business worldwide. So it’s a critical and very profitable business for the fruity company. For this device to lose its name would have catastrophic consequences.
Yes, Proview had an iPad much before Apple did. The name stood for Internet Personal Access Device. It was an all-in-one system built into a CRT monitor that could access the Internet, was released in 1998 and had a rather confusing marketing campaign. Consider this passage from the brochure “….The iPAD
development constructs on the dream of technology founded human spirit. To make use of advance serial products... it is the strong leading trend and nobody can resist the charming of iPAD”. Not exactly Shakespearean prose – but at least an iPad existed before the iPad!
Proview, the Company
This company is based in Shenzhen, China; its mainline business is the manufacturing of monitors; it had made a name for itself a while back and is in financial doldrums right now ($97 million in losses in 2009); it has filed for bankruptcy, had a former CEO who resigned due to his own personal bankruptcy and a current CEO who has clearly stated that they are fighting this battle with Apple to get a settlement that will help it sort out the “big financial trouble” they are in. Not exactly a confidence-inspiring history – but then who are we to judge?
So, we’ve established most of the cast and the happenings. Proview had an iPad before Apple had an iPad and Proview owned the iPad trademark. So far, so good. Then the following
The tale of two iPads
Apple bought the worldwide rights for the iPad trademark from Proview in 2006. But it didn’t buy it directly from Proview but from an affiliate company. Everything was all hunkydory till the iPad became a rather serious hit for Apple. Proview then made a claim that they did not sign off on the 2006 deal for the iPad trademark in China. In fact, they’ve even gone so far as to claim that the affiliate had no right to sell the trademark in the first place. While a Hong Kong court found that Apple
owned the trademark, all hell broke loose when a court in southern China ruled that the iPad trademark was owned by Proview. It ordered local resellers and stores not to sell Apple’s iPad and also got local authorities to pick up stock of the iconic brand off the shelves.
Now emboldened, Proview asked for all production and exports of the Apple iPad to stop from China as it is illegal for Apple to manufacture a product in China by a name Proview owned. While this hasn’t happened and authorities have refused, Proview is pursuing this to the fullest. Further, it has also threatened to sue Apple for $2 billion in the USA. The further claim now is that Apple had clearly stated in its contract that it would not use the iPad name to manufacture a competing product. Just how a clunky, big, fat, thick CRT monitor with 1998 technology is competition for an iPad is a little difficult to figure out. Nonetheless, Proview seems to think its case has merit!
So there you have it. With the iPad 3 (retina display, quad-core processor, 4G connectivity are some of the rumours) about to be released, Proview could do some serious damage here. And while some backroom dealings could close this entire case in one shot, I doubt it’ll happen soon. In case Apple can’t sell the iPad as an iPad in China, what could they call it then? On Twitter, I got some great responses. Apple lovers came up with iGod, iSexy, iRajni and iCandowhatothercant. Apple non-lovers came up with iPaidtoomuch, iNeedaName, iSue and iSuck. What do you think?
Rajiv Makhni is managing editor, Technology, NDTV and the anchor of Gadget Guru, Cell Guru and Newsnet 3. Follow Rajiv on
Twitter at twitter.com/RajivMakhni
From HT Brunch, February 26
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First Published: Feb 24, 2012 16:32 IST