One of my favorite Chinese proverbs goes something like this:
"To steal a book is an elegant offense."
The proverb — and popular business book of that name — gets to the heart of intellectual property rights, as seen through so-called Confucian values.
The deep thought here: ideas can't truly be owned, because they belong to everyone.
But what if that proverb is applied to the hottest company in the world, and to its hottest product?
And what if you change the word "book" to "iPad?"
That's the charge reportedly leveled against Apple in China.
According to Apple Insider, America's tech darling is embroiled in a nasty $1.6 billion lawsuit in China, which challenges Apple's right to use the name iPad in China.
Here's the skinny, according to Apple Insider:
"In 2006, Apple purchased the iPad trademark from display manufacturer Proview Electronics (Taiwan) for $55,000 by way of a front company called IP Application Development," the website writes.
"However, the company claims that the deal did not include the rights to the trademark in China, as those were owned by Proview Technology (Shenzhen), a subsidiary of Proview International in Hong Kong," Apple Insider adds
The Wall Street Journal landed an interview with Proview's chairman in Shenzhen.
"We have to admit that Apple's iPad is a great product, and Apple creates great value out of that," Yang Rongshan told the Journal. "But this is not the reason to support their irregular practice here."
The Chinese company reportedly sued Apple last year in China. Believing that it is the rightful owner of the trademark, Apple countersued, lost, and has appealed.
No official comment on the case has been made by Apple or Chinese officials.
But Proview apparently doesn't just want money. It wants an apology from Apple, too.
"We ask the court to stop selling and marketing for Apple’s iPad in China. We also demand an apology,” Proview lawyer Xianghui Xie told the China Daily.
There's some speculation in China that Proview is strapped for cash, and that it's looking to pay off debts with proceeds from any lawsuit.
And, of course, Apple will no doubt mount a powerful defense if this threat to one of its most important products becomes even slightly worrying to its bottom line.
But if proven true, just how elegant would Apple's alleged offense be in the grand scheme of things?
Take in this fact, friends: Apple sold 15.4 million iPads in the last quarter alone.