Battle Royal: Apple Yanks iPad From Amazon China

In an interesting maneuver that is likely related to its ongoing trademark struggle with Chinese monitor manufacturer Proview Technology, Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) has had its signature iPad tablet pulled from the virtual shelves of Amazon China, according to an Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) spokesperson.  What’s very curious about the move, though, was that an online sale ban wasn’t even one of the restrictions requested by Proview.

Apple and Proview have been locked in a trademark battle over the iPad for awhile now, but it has been coming to a head for the last few months. Apple has always contended that they purchased the Chinese trademark rights many years ago for use in ten different countries.  Proview has stated that those rights did not extend to China, and has sought an import and export ban of the device into and out of the country.  They had never sought an online ban or administrative ban in Beijing, where Amazon China is headquartered.  Proview is based in Shenzen.

As the case seems to have unfolded so far, Apple won a decision in a Hong Kong court, according to a company spokesperson, where the court sided against Proview. But according to Reuters, Apple then lost to Proview late last year after another court ruled that the Chinese company had the rights to the Apple trademark. Apple then appealed, with an absolute, final decision due on February 29.

What the removal of the iPad from Amazon China has to do with this has many, including Proview, guessing.  It could be a way of showing the marketplace how valuable the iPad is, thus forcing pressure on Proview. Then again, it might be Apple’s way of demonstrating the strength of the brand itself in relation to the Apple name, thus reflecting its overall value.  Conversely, it could be Apple preparing itself for its worst case scenario.   It may even be none of those things.

If the decision doesn’t go Apple’s way, it could be very bad news for the Cupertino-based company.  An import ban alone would be devastating, as the company notched $13 billion in sales numbers to China last year alone.  But given that iPads are manufactured in China, an export ban could be crippling to the company’s ability to market the device globally.

A full ban seems unlikely, as even Proview Chairman Yang Long-san has stated 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.”

Apple has made no comment on the decision to pull the device, but other retailers have quietly been pulling the device from shelves.  Right now, Apple has very few true options.  It can either wait on the decision later this month, which will be the final decision, or it can ink what will no doubt be a costly settlement deal with Proview.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jonathan Morris at staff.writers@wallstcheatsheet.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Damien Hoffman at editors@wallstcheatsheet.com