Chinese iPad trademark suit seen as chance for Samsung, Lenovo to gain on Apple

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Apple's continuing struggles over ownership of the "iPad" name in China are viewed by industry watchers as an opportunity for rivals Samsung and Lenovo to gain some ground in the massive market.

The ongoing Proview lawsuit was portrayed as a "window of opportunity" afforded to Apple's rivals in a new report from Reuters on Monday. It included comments from three analysts based out of the Far East who believe that Samsung and Lenovo are both beneficiaries from Apple's misfortune.

"Samsung will probably benefit more from Apple's ongoing lawsuit because both of them are after the same higher-end consumers, given their price points," said Dickie Chang of IDC. "The impact on Lenovo may be less because Lepads are lower priced and are aimed more at entry-level users."

While the iPad 2 and Samsung Galaxy Tab are at about the same price of 3,688 yuan, the Android-powered Lenovo Lepad is available for about half that price. In the third quarter of last year, Apple's iPad is estimated to have sold 1.3 million units in China, while Lenovo sold around 120,000 Lepads and Samsung sold about 58,000 Galaxy Tabs.

China could be pivotal in the worldwide tablet market, as the nation of 1.3 billion people now has 505 million active Internet users. China has become an increasingly important segment of Apple's business, and last October was revealed to be the company's second largest market. Officials at Apple have said they are only "scratching the surface" in China.

Though the iPad is the leading touchscreen tablet in China, industry watchers believe Samsung and Lenovo could gain some ground because of Apple's ongoing trademark dispute with Proview. The company has asked for as much as $2 billion in return for Apple's use of the "iPad" name, which Proview first used for its "Internet Personal Access Device" computer.

Proview won another small legal victory last week, when a lower Chinese court barred sales of the iPad in China's Guangdong province. But Chinese customs officials have indicated that a ban on the importation and exportation of the iPad in China would be difficult to enforce.

Though there hasn't been an official ban on the iPad in mainland China, local authorities in select areas have seized at least 45 units. A court ruling from December in Proview's favor is also currently under appeal at the High Court in Guangdong.

Proview believes that Apple's purchase of the iPad name from one of its Taiwanese affiliates was an unauthorized transaction. For its part, Apple has contended that Proview "refuses to honor" the existing agreement between the two companies.

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