Apple spokeswoman Carolyn Wu said Proview International Holding and its subsidiaries tricked Apple into signing a 2009 agreement in such a way that opens ownership of the Chinese trademarks to questions. She said Proview, which is based in Hong Kong, now is trying unfairly to extract more money for the same transaction.
"We respect Chinese laws and regulations, and as a company that generates a lot of intellectual property we would never knowingly abuse someone else's trademarks," Wu said.
A Proview attorney, Xiao Caiyuan, disputed Apple's argument, saying the Cupertino, Calif., company "is misleading the public" and made its own mistakes that kept the China rights with his company.
Apple has made similar claims in court, but the Tuesday statement was its most detailed public statement on the matter. Apple didn't offer additional details about the status of the trademark-ownership dispute, which is being considered by a high court in China's Guangdong province.
The dispute comes as Apple's sales rise in China, making it the company's No. 2 market, behind the US. Apple doesn't break down iPad sales in China, but research firm IDC estimated that the company sold nearly 4.1 million iPads in China last year, or 70 percent of all tablet computers sold in the country.
A new version of the iPad is expected to go on sale in other parts of the world, including Hong Kong, this week, though it was unclear when it will go on sale in mainland China.
Apple in 2009 reached a deal with a Taiwan affiliate of Proview to buy the trademark rights for "IPAD," a name Proview had registered years earlier for a separate product. The 2009 deal included a list of trademarks registered in several different countries, including two in mainland China, according to a copy of the contract.
Apple on Tuesday said Proview steered the talks through its Taiwan arm even though the China trademarks technically belonged to its Shenzhen subsidiary, Proview Technology Shenzhen Co., which is about $400 million in debt. Apple also said the move was a maneuver to shield Proview Technology from mainland creditors.