By Jordan Crook
If for some reason you were to mosey on over to Amazon’s Chinese website and perform a search for the iPad, you know what you’d find? No iPad.
Now, you might think to yourself, “Wow, Proview pulled it off,” but that’s not the case at all. In fact, an Amazon (AMZN) spokesperson said that the Apple (AAPL) was the one who requested that the iPad be taken off the site. Proview hasn’t even requested an online sales ban.
Yep, this is tricky, so let’s parse through it together.
The trademark battle between Chinese tech company Proview and Apple has been heating up in recent months, with the Shenzen-based company asking for import and export bans of the iPad in China. Apple contends that it purchased the Chinese trademark rights to the iPad several years ago in ten different countries, but Proview and its lawyers have deemed that those trademark rights don’t extend into China.
“Proview refuses to honor their agreement with Apple in China and a Hong Kong court has sided with Apple in this matter,” said an Apple spokeswoman.
If Proview were to win, it could be a serious issue for Apple. China remains a huge manufacturing hub for Apple, and if Cupertino can’t get its iPads out of China it could deal a heavy blow to the company’s worldwide sales numbers. In fact, it could deal a significant blow to Apple’s Chinese sales numbers, which came in around $13 billion last year. On the other hand, it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen.
Proview Technology Chairman Yang Long-san told Reuters that “customs have told us that it will be difficult to implement a ban because many Chinese consumers love Apple products. The sheer size of the market is very big.”
According to Reuters, Apple lost to Proview in late 2011 after a court ruled that Proview had rights to the iPad trademark. True to Apple fashion, Cupertino appealed the decision and the next hearing, which will yield a final decision from the courts, is set to begin on February 29.
So that’s what’s going on between Apple and Proview, which brings us back to Amazon China.
M.I.C. Gadgets reports that Apple has made no comment regarding the removal of the iPad on Amazon’s website, and Proview’s lawyers admit they didn’t see it coming either. As I said, Proview never filed for the administrative ban of online sales in Beijing, where Amazon China is based.
Other retailers within various regions of China have been asked by officials to pull the tablet as the dispute heats up, but this is the first instance in which we’ve seen Apple yank its products off of virtual shelves.
But this is undoubtedly tied to the Proview case in some way. See, Apple has limited options when it comes to dealing with this mess. It could try its hand with this appeal, but the decision on February 29 will be as final as an answer on “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire” — there’s no turning back. The other option is to settle with Proview, but as it stands now that would be a rather large payout.
MicGadget speculates that this may be a part of Apple’s strategy. If Apple can demonstrate that its iPad branding is only valuable because its tied to the Apple iPad, the company might be able to bring down a proposed settlement figure. Or Apple’s twenty steps ahead of all of us and we have absolutely no idea how this one move fits into the grand scheme of things.