Apple in talks with iPad trademark challenger to try and settle dispute

A Chinese court has recommended the two companies hold talks to try and resolve the iPad trademark dispute

Apple and a Chinese company have started talks to try and resolve an ongoing legal dispute over the iPad trademark, according to a lawyer involved in the case.

Ma Dongxiao, a lawyer representing the Chinese company Proview, said on Friday the talks were happening, but declined to offer details.

The legal dispute between Apple and Proview is still being deliberated by the Higher People's Court of Guangdong Province. But earlier this week, the court recommended that both Apple and Proview find a way to mediate the dispute, according to a court spokesman.

Before a ruling is issued, Chinese law allows both parties to enter a "mediation procedure" to negotiate a possible settlement. But the talks are voluntary, the court spokesman said.

Apple and Proview have been locked in a high-profile legal dispute over which company owns the iPad trademark in China. If Apple were to lose the case, the U.S. tech giant could be forced to pay large fines and see a ban on sales of its iPad devices in China.

Apple claims to have bought the iPad trademarks from Proview in 2009. But Proview contends that no such sale was made. Earlier this year, a Proview representative said the company wanted Apple to pay US$400 million for the iPad trademarks for China.

Zhao Zhanling, a legal expert on China's information technology law, said the opening of talks is a sign that both Apple and Proview are now taking a step back from their positions, and allowing room for compromise.

"I think there is some hope the talks will lead to a resolution," Zhao said. But if the negotiations fail, the higher court will be forced to move ahead and make a ruling, he added.

Apple could not be immediately reached for comment. The company's new iPad has not yet gone on sale in China. Analysts said this delay could be linked to the challenge from Proview, but Apple declined to comment.

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