Navigating Trademark Challenges: Insights from Apple's Branding Journey

Borsam IP
Borsam IP

In recent years, multinational corporations have faced trademark challenges in strategic markets, with Apple being no exception. Despite their meticulous brand management, Apple encountered trademark registration issues with the latest released product Vision Pro in China.


In this article, we are going to explore the significance of trademark application and strategic planning, drawing insights from these high-profile incidents.


Apple's recent release of the Vision Pro product is inevitably going to face a trademark dispute in China due to its name being previously registered by Huawei on similar goods in Class 9, as well as numerous other entities’ applications. Overcoming this trademark dispute calls for a thoughtful approach and several potential strategies.


On the one hand, applicant may challenge the existing trademarks by initiating a trademark opposition, invalidation or cancellation process. Taking the conflict between Apple and Huawei as an example, Apple could initiate a trademark cancellation or invalidation process against the existing registrations, since the opposition period was expired and the trademark has been registered. This involves proving that the registered marks should not have been granted due to various grounds, such as prior use, generic nature, or lack of distinctiveness, or should be canceled due to non-use for three consecutive years.


On the other hand, Apple can also engage in negotiations with the owners of prior trademarks to acquire the rights to use the Vision Pro name. This approach involves reaching an agreement, which may include financial compensation or a mutually beneficial arrangement.


Another high-profile incident is Apple's previous experience with the iPad trademark issue in China, which offers valuable insights for future trademark protection strategies. When planning the launch of the iPad, Apple discovered that the trademark had been registered by Proview, a subsidiary of the Taiwanese company, VVG. Apple actually set up a proxy company IP Application Development Ltd in the UK and embarked on negotiations with Proview/VVG, and reached an agreement on the trademark transfer. However, it was reported that the transfer did not cover registrations in mainland China, and the relevant recording procedure of change of trademark ownership was not finished in due time. As a result, Proview contended that they remained the legal owner of the "iPad" trademark in China. Ultimately, the dispute ended with Apple acquiring the iPad trademark rights for a significant sum of $60 million. This strategic acquisition secured Apple's ability to market and sell the iPad in China.


These trademark challenges highlight the importance of proactive trademark application and strategic planning for multinational corporations. There are some key lessons that we may learn for trademark application and strategic planning:


1. Conduct Comprehensive Trademark Searches

Before introducing a new product or brand, extensive trademark searches must be conducted to identify potential conflicts and ensure that trademarks are available for registration.


2. File Trademark Applications Early

Early filing of trademark applications can help prevent or reduce the risk of possible refusal due to prior trademarks, and secure exclusive rights in key markets. Apple's delay in registering the iPad trademark resulted in a costly and time-consuming dispute.


3. Customize Strategies for Different Jurisdictions

Trademark laws and practices vary across jurisdictions. Companies should tailor their trademark strategies to align with the legal requirements and practices of specific markets to avoid potential pitfalls.


4. Collaborate with Local Experts

Partnering with local legal experts and trademark professionals can provide valuable guidance and ensure compliance with local regulations during the trademark application process.



Apple's trademark challenges with the Vision Pro and iPad products in China emphasize the significance of robust trademark application and strategic planning for multinational companies. Proactive measures, such as comprehensive trademark searches, early filing, and collaboration with local experts, are crucial for securing and protecting valuable trademarks in various jurisdictions. By learning from these incidents, companies can enhance their trademark protection strategies and minimize the risk of costly disputes.