"Chinese apples" is an English term for pomegranate. Pomegranates seem to be plentiful these days, but there is another Chinese apple that is facing extinction: the Apple iPad.

Recently, a Chinese court determined that Chinese tech company Proview Technology (Shenzen) Co. Ltd. was the owner of the mark "iPad" in China. Proview obtained a registration of iPad in 2001, and the court found that Apple had produced no evidence that Proview obtained that registration in bad faith. Apple claims it bought the rights to iPad from Proview, but the court disagreed and found Apple liable for infringement.

Under Chinese law, Proview is now getting Chinese authorities to seize Apple iPad tablets in China, and is seeking a ban on all exports of Apple iPad products made in China. That means that none of Apple's Chinese-made iPad products would be able to leave the country. The ban would also apply to the importation of any iPad products into China.

Proview is also seeking $38 million in damages and an apology from Apple. Proview also has another case pending against Apple in which Proview is seeking $1.5 billion for copyright infringement. Needless to say, this is causing huge headaches for Apple Inc.

What are the lessons here?

Putting political views aside, the key takeaway is this: register your trademarks in China as early as possible. Unlike in the United States, where trademark rights are based on use of a mark in commerce, trademark rights in China are based on registration. It's possible for an entity in China that is not making your product to obtain a Chinese registration for your trademark. That entity could then use that registration to block you from importing or branding your trademarked products in China. You want to be the first to register your trademarks in China, so you don't need to buy the rights to your own mark from someone else — or face infringement litigation for using your own mark.

If your business plans include manufacturing in or selling to China, make sure your trademarks are protected in China by registering early. We are able to work with Chinese trademark lawyers on your behalf to make sure your rights in China are fully protected. Don't hesitate to contact us if you would like more details.

Otherwise, some rotten apple might spoil your piece of the pie.

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