Proview speaks out on US suit, accuses Apple of fraud & unfair competition

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Proview on Monday announced that it has amended its California lawsuit against Apple over its use of the "iPad" moniker, accusing the company of multiple instances of fraud and unfair competition.

Though based in China, Proview announced its amended lawsuit in a press release issued Monday by New York-based public relations firm Powell Tate. Allegations lodged in the U.S. complaint against Apple include fraud by intentional misrepresentation, fraud by concealment, fraudulent inducement, and unfair competition.

"The complaint provides evidence that the December 23, 2009 agreement that Proview Taiwan entered into was fraudulently induced by the concealment and suppression of material facts by Apple's agents, and that, as a result, the 2009 agreement is void," the press release states. "Once the agreement is voided for fraud, the iPad trademarks in the European Union, South Korea, Mexico, Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, and Vietnam will revert back to Proview Taiwan."

The U.S. complaint alleges that Apple was "pressed for time" when it negotiated to buy the necessary trademarks for the "IPAD" name owned by Proview. It also states that Apple was "predisposed to deception" in dealing with Proview because Apple knew that Proview opposed its use of "similar trademarks."

"To further this deception, Apple used an intermediary, Farncombe International and its Managing Director, Graham Robinson, to create an elaborate but false pretext for the purchase of Proview's IPAD trademarks," the statement reads. "Apple created a special purpose company named IP Application Development Limited ("IPAD Ltd."), then concealed the fact that this company was acting as an agent of Apple.

"Graham Robinson further concealed Apple's involvement by adopting a false alias, Jonathan Hargreaves, which he used when negotiating with Proview."

The complaint also alleges that Robinson and Apple intentionally misled Proview regarding the "IPAD Ltd." business and its intended use of the trademark. Robinson allegedly said that IPAD Ltd. sought the trademark because "IPAD" is an abbreviation for IP Application Development Limited.

Robinson is also accused of evading questions from Proview as to the nature of IPAD Ltd.'s business, only offering that it was "a newly formed company."

"I'm sure you can understand that we are not ready to publicize what the company's business is, since we have not yet made any public announcements," Robinson is alleged to have said. "As I said in my last message, I can assure you that the company will not compete with Proview."

Earlier Monday, a report from Reuters quoted experts who said Apple's secretive tactics could be a disadvantage for the company when defending itself from Proview's complaints. New Yorkbased trademark attorney Martin Scwhimmer said Apple's approach was a "level of ruse" he has "never encountered."

But other experts believe Apple could counter Proview's claims by arguing that the Chinese trademark holder cannot sue Apple directly. They believe that the court could find that Proview can only file suit against IPAD Ltd., Apple's special purpose corporation which actually bought the trademarks.

Proview's latest action is an amendment to the complaint it originally filed against Apple in a California court on Feb. 17. The company seeks to bar sales of Apple's iPad touchscreen tablet.

Apple has countered that it legally bought the rights to the iPad name, and Proview is not honoring its end of the deal. Last week, a Shanghai court sided with Apple and has allowed sales of the iPad to continue in that city.