Apple 2.0

Covering the business that Steve Jobs built

How Apple ended the iPad trademark saga: A timeline

July 2, 2012: 6:08 AM ET

In 2009 it paid Proview $55,000 for the name. Now it has agreed to pay another $60 million

Proview's IPAD

FORTUNE -- "The two sides have reached an agreement after mediation. Apple Inc. has transferred $60 million to the requested account."

With those two sentences, posted in Chinese on the Weibo microblogging site by the Guangdong High People's Court, the three-year battle over Apple's (AAPL) rights to use the iPad trademark in mainland China came to an end.

It's complicated story that is perhaps best told in a timeline.

  • Late 2009: Apple hires a British firm called Farncombe International and its managing director, Graham Robinson, as its negotiating agent. Robinson creates a British shell company called IP Application Development Limited ("IPAD Ltd."). Using the alias Jonathan Hargreaves, Robinson opens talks in Hong Kong with a bankrupt Taiwanese manufacturer of LCD monitors called Proview Electronics, concealing the fact that he is negotiating on Apple's behalf.
  • Dec. 23, 2009: In return for 35,000 pounds ($55,000), Proview Electronics sells Apple all rights to the iPad trademark it had registered several years earlier to make an iMac lookalike. When asked during the negotiations why he wanted the trademark, Robinson is evasive, but offers assurances that he will not be competing with Proview.
  • Jan. 27, 2010: Thirty seven days later, Steve Jobs unveils the iPad in San Francisco. When it goes on sale in March, Apple can't make them fast enough to meet demand.
  • March 2010: Proview International Holdings, backed by several large Chinese banks, discovers that the rights to use the trademark in mainland China belong to a separate subsidiary, Proview Shenzhen, and demands an additional $1.6 billion for the Chinese trademark. Apple refuses to pay.
  • May 2010: Apple files a complaint against Proview in Hong Kong for failing to honor its agreement.
  • June 2011: The Hong Kong court decides in Apple's favor.
  • Dec. 2011: In a separate case, a Chinese court in Guanhdong province rules in Proview's favor.
  • Feb. 2012: Authorities in several Chinese cities begin removing iPads from store shelves.
  • Feb. 17, 2012: Proview sues Apple in California for fraud and seeks unspecified damages. The case is dismissed three months later.
  • March 2012: CEO Tim Cook visits China and is reported to discuss the case with Chinese officials.
  • May 2012: In court-ordered mediation talks, Apple reportedly offers Proview $16 million to settle. Proview is said to be asking $400 million.
  • June 2012: The case is settled for $60 million.
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About This Author
Philip Elmer-Dewitt
Philip Elmer-DeWitt
Editor, Apple 2.0, Fortune

Philip Elmer-DeWitt has been following Apple since 1982, first for Time Magazine, and now on the Web for Fortune.com.

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