Apple Launches Online Stores for China, Faces Trademark Suit

The Wall Street Journal reports on Apple’s launch of an online store in China and a simplified-Chinese App Store for iPhone and iPad software, describing it as “the latest move in an aggressive expansion by the company after years of neglecting the market”:

The company’s expansion in China comes as competition in China’s nascent but fast-growing smartphone market is heating up, with Taiwanese smartphone maker HTC Corp. also planning an expansion here….

Apple had 7.1% of China’s smartphone market as of the second quarter, ranking fifth after Nokia Corp., Samsung Electronics Co., Motorola Inc. and Sony Ericsson, according to research firm Analysys International.

According to research firm IDC, Apple has less than 1% share of unit shipments in the PC market.

These moves follow comments aimed at Apple by Lenovo Chairman Liu Chuanzhi this summer: “We are lucky Steve Jobs has such a bad temper and doesn’t care about China,” he told the Financial Times.

Meanwhile, Apple faces legal action from Taiwanese company Proview over use of the iPad name. From the Financial Times, via MacStories:

According to Mr Yang, Proview Electronics (Taiwan) agreed in 2006 to sell the “global trademark” for the IPAD name to a US-registered company called IP Application Development (IPAD) for £35,000 ($55,104). Proview did not at the time suspect the company had any link with Apple.

However, Mr Yang claims that the trademarks for the Chinese market were not included in that agreement ….

“It is arrogant of Apple to just ignore our rights and go ahead selling the iPad in this market, and we will oppose that,” Mr Yang said. “Besides that, we are in big financial trouble and the trademarks are a valuable asset that could help us sort out part of that trouble.”

iPhone sales in China were initially slow, with official vendors facing competition from a vigorous grey market. They have since gathered pace, however, with China Unicom receiving 200,000 pre-orders for the iPhone 4. After the device’s September launch, Beijing’s Sanlitun Apple Store was forced to close when it was inundated with “scalpers” buying as many as 30 phones each.

The devices have been subject to various restrictions in China, with the first iPhones sold there stripped of Wi-Fi capability. In September, the Ogle Earth blog uncovered the “crippled” Maps app on the Chinese iPhone 4. It displayed Beijing-approved international borders, as one might expect, but this was no longer affected by changing the phone’s region settings or using a VPN. More mysteriously, street names in some North American and European cities were given only in Chinese, or not at all.

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