Don’t Bother Getting Up: Proview’s California Case Against Apple Dismissed

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Yes, in the ongoing epic battle between Proview and Apple over the China rights to the iPad trademark, there was a California court case pending. Too bad this case didn’t even survive past a motion to dismiss. Might have been interesting, but that’s life in the big city.

Just for reference, Proview was arguing that Apple, in creating a dummy company that negotiated and purchased the iPad marks from Proview, perpetrated a fraud. I went back to see what I wrote about this complaint in February, hoping that I hadn’t allowed my inner idiot to poke his head above the surface and say something foolish.

As luck would have it, my post was entitled “Apple Not Losing Sleep Over Latest Proview Threat“:

Proview, current owner of the iPad trademark in China, now says it will sue Apple in the U.S. Ha!

I think the Proview legal team needs to take a deep breath here. They are going with the old strategy of “Let’s throw as much shit against the wall as possible and see what sticks.” That often works quite well in beating an opponent so badly that they will limp to the negotiation table.

However, I’ve always thought that the strategy made the most sense when the threats were somewhat realistic, as opposed to fantastic.

[ . . . ]

If I’m an Apple lawyer, this threat goes way down on the list of things to worry about. I’m sure Proview could file this in the U.S. somewhere and make some headlines, but it sure seems like a loser lawsuit brought up for mischief making purposes only.

Well, there you have it. I finally got one right. Had to happen eventually.

The annoying part about this California case is that after discussing the merits with several folks, strictly for entertainment purposes mind you, I began wondering just what the court might think of that fraud charge. I mean, Apple did misrepresent themselves materially during the negotiations, and certainly Proview would have attempted to gouge them for more money if they knew that. It would have been very cool to read a formal legal opinion from a judge as to why the fraud theory was stupid.

Too bad we’ll never know, because the case was tossed on jurisdictional grounds, which is always one of the first ways a lawyer will try to get a case ganked on procedural grounds. It sounds like it wasn’t too difficult on this one. Remember that the transfer agreement between Proview and Apple’s dummy company specified Hong Kong law and dispute resolution. Thus the default governance is that issues relating to that agreement should be heard in Hong Kong. Apple argued that not only should that happen, but indeed it has happened/is happening. (I am actually not too clear on the current status of the Hong Kong court proceedings, mostly because they pale in significance to the one in Guangdong.)

Proview had the opportunity to oppose the motion to dismiss, essentially arguing that there was a good reason why the case belonged in a California court that, admittedly, could exercise personal jurisdiction over Apple. Whatever they brought to the table on that issue wasn’t good enough, because Proview lost the motion and the case was tossed.

Unfortunately, we don’t have the actual court order, which was apparently handed down a few days ago. Like the other drooling mental cases out there, I’ve been happily refreshing my Santa Clara Superior Court site page on the case once in a while over the past few days, waiting for an update that never came. That’ll teach me not to rely on court IT.

Without an overnight (from my perspective) Wall Street Journal story on this, I don’t think anyone would have known about the decision at all, and for those of us who do not pay Mr. Murdoch’s blood money to scale the WSJ paywall, we won’t even know those few details. Oops, I forgot to insert a link to that WSJ story. Oh well, it’s paywalled anyway, so what’s the difference?

Anyway, this is not exactly earth-shattering news, and the court order won’t tell us anything that touches on the overall dispute. The California case was not exactly a strong one for a variety of reasons, so this dismissal certainly doesn’t change any of the dynamics of the trademark fight. To recap, Proview still owns the China iPad trademark. The two sides, and the rest of us, are waiting to hear from the Guangdong High Court on the issue of whether Proview did in fact transfer the marks to Apple’s front company. In the meantime, everyone is straining their little ears to hear any whispers of a settlement. Proview is happily feeding misleading information to gullible reporters, but thus far, there is no independent confirmation that the two parties have made any headway in settlement talks.

As usual, stay tuned.