A Chinese official said on Tuesday that Apple does not have ownership of the iPad trademark in China, signaling that authorities could be favoring local company Proview in its battle with the U.S. tech giant over rights to the iconic brand name.
Fu Shuangjian, the vice minister of the State Administration for Industry and Commerce (SAIC), made the comment as Apple faces an ongoing court battle with Proview for ownership of the iPad trademark.
According to China's trademark laws, Proview is still the holder of the iPad trademark rights, Fu said in a Tuesday press conference, of which a transcript was made available online.
The SAIC, which enforces trade laws in China, has been investigating the iPad trademark dispute following formal complaints made by Proview. A Chinese higher court is deliberating the case, and following the decision the SAIC will act according to the law, Fu said.
"Due to the impact of this case, and because the court's final decision will determine ownership of the iPad trademark rights, SAIC will carefully deal with this case," he added.
Fu's statements are the first remarks SAIC has made on the dispute. Earlier this year, reports emerged that local authorities had begun seizing iPads because of trademark infringement.
Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The company contends that it bought the iPad trademark rights from Proview in 2009. Proview, however, claims it still has ownership of the rights and has demanded that Apple stop selling its iPad tablet in China because of trademark infringement.
If Apple were to lose the court case, the company could be forced to pay heavy fines and see its iPad banned from China under its current name.
The Chinese higher court deliberating the case has recommended both Apple and Proview reach a settlement in the dispute. The two companies have begun talks, a Proview lawyer said last week.