A Chinese computer maker on Wednesday asked a Shanghai court to bar the sale of Apple's iconic iPad in the commercial metropolis in a long-running trademark dispute.
Proview Technology (Shenzhen) says it owns the Chinese rights to the "iPad" name and is seeking legal backing to force the US technology giant to stop selling its trendy tablet computer in the city, where Apple has three stores.
It is very rare for a Chinese enterprise to accuse an overseas firm of trademark breaches -- although foreign companies frequently complain of intellectual property rights violations in China.
In a half-day hearing at the Pudong District People's Court, lawyers for both firms exchanged evidence and forcefully presented their cases, prompting the chief judge to interrupt several times, spectators said.
The district court will decide whether the case should proceed to formal trial, a court official told AFP.
The Shanghai case marks the latest round in a lengthy and multi-pronged legal battle between Apple and debt-laden Proview, which has been badly hit by the financial crisis, over the rights to the iPad name.
The Taiwan affiliate of Proview Technology (Shenzhen) registered "iPad" as a trademark in several countries including China as early as 2000 -- years before Apple began selling its product.
The US titan subsequently bought the rights for the global trademark, but Proview Technology (Shenzhen) claims the Taiwanese affiliate had no right to sell the Chinese rights.
Speaking after the hearing Wednesday, Proview's lawyer, Xie Xianghui, said he hoped the Shanghai court would make a decision soon to move the case forward.
"We have already provided ample evidence that the Apple company violates the trademark," Xie told reporters outside the courthouse following the hearing.
Apple last year took the firm to a Chinese court, claiming trademark infringement, but the court ruled the US company lacked "supporting facts and evidence" for its claim -- even though a Hong Kong court had previously sided with Apple.
Apple is now appealing that case but Proview, which makes computer monitors, has itself filed trademark lawsuits against Apple in China and is threatening to sue the technology giant in the United States for $2 billion.
But Xie said Wednesday that a settlement was possible.
"There might be negotiations in the near future," he said, although he declined to give a figure for how much money Proview might seek in a settlement.
Apple's law firm this week warned Proview of possible legal action over "defamatory statements and unlawful actions" aimed at interfering with Apple's business, according to a letter seen by AFP.
There was little sign the dispute was having an impact on Apple sales in Shanghai on Wednesday, with the Apple store in the city's financial district reporting brisk business.
"There's no shortage of iPads," a clerk told AFP.
But in another lawsuit, a Chinese court last week ordered an electronics chain store to stop selling Apple iPads at a branch in the southern city of Huizhou, according to the GH Law Firm which represented Proview.
Proview, based in China's southern boomtown of Shenzhen, has also filed complaints with local governments in several Chinese cities, resulting in seizures of iPads in at least two places.