How Apple used a British shell company to snap up the iPad trademark from Proview

How Apple used a British shell company to snap up the iPad trademark from Proview

If you’re not familiar with the legal battle between Apple and Chinese company Proview over the trademark for the name ‘iPad’, it’s a pretty interesting read. Our latest post on the matter sums up the dispute well, but some interesting details were revealed today in an Proview press release and summarized by Fortune’s Philip Elmer-Dewitt.

What happened was that roughly a month before the iPad was set to be released in 2010, Apple hired a british firm called Farncombe International to secure a trademark license for the name iPad. The trademark was then held by Proview, a Chinese company that made iMac-shaped monitors it called IPAD. To do this, Farncombe’s managing director, Graham Robinson, set up a shell company called — and this is rich — IP Application Development Limited. That’s IPAD Ltd..

Then Robinson used an alias to approach Proview with the premise that the company needed the acronym for its business. When queried about the nature of the fake company’s business, Robinson pleaded the fifth, but said that it would “not compete with proview.”

Apple purchased the trademark for £35,000 via the UK-based shell firm. Apple says it has evidence of emails that show confirmation of the deal directly from Proview staff.

Now, Proview is trying to claim that Apple committed fraud by concealment, inducement and intentional misrepresentation to grab the iPad name. This case is being brought against Apple in California, where it actually has already purchased the trademark from Fujitsu, who previously owned it stateside.

Interestingly, in China, Proview is taking a completely different tack, claiming that Apple was never issued the trademark at all. Apple says that the company is lying and that it has an email trail to prove that it owns the trademark.

Proview has been after Apple over the IPAD trademark for some time, and instituted efforts to get it back in October of 2010. That decision was appealed by Apple last month. More recently, it has come to light that a series of creditors, including the Bank of China, has owned Proview for some time and is pushing for a settlement in the ‘IPAD’ trademark case there.

Proview Chairman Yang Rongshan says that Apple didn’t do its due dilligence on the relationship between Proview, its creditors and the court before striking an agreement. Something he says means that Apple still needs to clear up by way of a settlement.

For its part, Apple has issued a statement, saying that it “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 and a Hong Kong court has sided with Apple in this matter. Our case is still pending in mainland China.”

Read next: Mobile car booking service Uber says it will launch in Asia by the end of 2012