Apple faces trademark suit

Date Feb 07 2012 14:49:45 Source:SHMET

SHENZHEN - A Shenzhen-based enterprise has accused technology giant Apple of infringing on its iPad trademark - a trademark over which both companies claim ownership. 

The Pudong district court in Shanghai will hear the case on Feb 22, a lawyer for the Chinese company told China Daily on Monday. 

A fine of 240 million yuan ($38 million) against Apple over the infringement is also pending from the market administrative authority in Beijing. 

"We are asking the court to order Apple to stop selling and marketing the iPad in China. We also demand an apology," said Xie Xianghui, a lawyer representing the Chinese company. 

The company, Proview Technology Shenzhen, also took two authorized Apple resellers for iPad - Gome Electrical Appliances and the Sundan Electronic Store - to courts in Guangdong province over similar infringements. 

No financial compensation has been demanded by Proview Shenzhen at this stage of the trials. 

Verdicts are pending. 

Proview Shenzhen registered the iPad trademark in China in 2001, nine years before Apple launched its iPad products in 2010, Xie said. 

Proview Taiwan, a company associated with, but not legally representing, the Shenzhen company, sold the Chinese trademark - along with others for use in other countries - to the UK-based IP Application Development Limited for 35,000 British pounds ($55,000) in 2009, according to a report by Nanfang Daily. 

The UK company then resold the brand to Apple for 10 pounds before Apple's launch of iPad in 2010, the report said. 

Apple applied to transfer the trademark from Proview Shenzhen on the Chinese mainland in 2010, but the application was turned down by China's trademark administrative authorities, the report said. 

Apple then sued Proview Shenzhen in 2011 to gain legal entitlement as exclusive user of the iPad name - but lost the lawsuit in a Guangdong court. 

The higher court in Guangdong province accepted Apple's appeal. 

The general office of the Xicheng district branch of Beijing Administration for Industry and Commerce told China Daily it is "investigating the cases", but refused to verify or comment on the bill on Monday. 

An insider who refused to be named told China Daily that law enforcement officials from other branches of the Beijing administration had listened to Xicheng's report on the case. 

"But many of us hold different opinions on whether it is Apple breaching Proview Shenzhen's rights or Proview Shenzhen dishonestly demanding compensation. We didn't reach consensus on the fine as well." 

The public relations office of Apple China did not respond to China Daily's interview request by press time on Monday. 

Liu Yinliang, an associate law professor at Peking University, said if the trademark management authority had not approved such an intellectual property transfer, then the trademark deal had not yet become valid in China. 

Report by SHMET

Li Ning to reduce staff to lower costs

Date Feb 07 2012 14:48:53 Source:SHMET

SHANGHAI - China's homegrown sports brand Li Ning Co Ltd has announced that it will reduce staff numbers to rein in costs after it had predicted its revenue for 2011 had fallen by 6 to 7 percent year-on-year. 

The company, which was founded by the famous Chinese gymnast Li Ning and is listed on the Hong Kong stock exchange, said on its website on Friday that it will streamline the organizational structure of various departments, including those for human resources, information technology and strategic development. That will help it increase its operational efficiency, lower its human resources costs and channel resources into its core business. 

The company plans to reduce its human resources costs as a percentage of its sales by 0.5 percent this year, said Demi Luo, who is in charge of Li Ning's public relations. The company's human resources costs as a percentage of its sales were 8.7 percent in the first half of 2011, he said. 

The organizational restructuring is part of the company's ongoing strategic reforms and follows an announcement the company made in October. 

China Business News reported on Monday that 4,215 employees worked for Li Ning in 2010, and the total cost of salaries and benefits exceeded 710 million yuan ($110 million). Each employee on average could earn 168,500 yuan a year, which is two-thirds more than was earned by their peers at Anta Sports Products Ltd, another Chinese sportswear company. 

"The adjustment will be beneficial to the group's long-term development," Zhang Zhiyong, CEO of Li Ning, said. 

As competition in the Chinese sporting-goods industry intensifies, and the industry's costs continue to rise, the company will be faced with difficulties, Li Ning, who is also chairman of the brand, said last August. That month, it reported that its net profit for the first half of the year had fallen by 49.5 percent to 293.7 million yuan, according to the company's interim report. 

According to the company's "Estimated Results for 2011 and Outlook for 2012" issued in January, the group's revenue had declined by about 6 to 7 percent below what it was in 2010 because of flat growth in orders and the repurchase of a portion of inventory from distributors. 

"Because the cost of resources, rent and labor all rose last year, the clothing industry was greatly affected," said Zhu Qinghua, an analyst with the CIC Industry Research Center. "Worse still, most sports brand made a wrong evaluation of the market, which caused high growth in reserves." 

Report by SHMET

Zhongwang looks overseas for growth

Date Feb 07 2012 14:47:43 Source:SHMET

SHENYANG - China Zhongwang Holdings Ltd, the world's second-largest manufacturer of aluminum extrusion products by volume, has set a goal of increasing the volume of its exports to the United States by fivefold in 2012, indicating the company's ambition to strengthen its overseas business. 

Zhongwang looks overseas for growth

Workers at a factory owned by China Zhongwang Holdings Ltd. The manufacturer of aluminum extrusion products is planning to increase its exports to the US market fivefold this year. [Photo/China Daily]

The company will sell up to 50,000 tons of aluminum products overseas this year, mainly to the US, said Chief Financial Officer Vincent Cheung when he spoke to reporters in the city of Liaoyang on Saturday. The percentage of overseas sales in the company's total sales is expected to grow from 2 percent in 2011 to more than 10 percent this year. 

"We are now discussing with our US clients how to adjust our product types for the US market, which will help us to avoid anti-dumping and anti-subsidies duties on Chinese aluminum products," said Cheung. 

In March 2010, the US Department of Commerce started anti-dumping and anti-subsidies investigations into Chinese aluminum products. The department decided to impose anti-dumping tariffs of 33.28 percent and anti-subsidies tariffs of 374.15 percent on several types of Chinese aluminum exports to the US in March 2011. 

The moves have hurt Chinese exports. In 2009, Zhongwang's sales revenue in the US market was 5.66 billion yuan ($897 million), accounting for 40.8 percent of the company's total revenue. The company's sales revenue dropped to 3.07 billion yuan in 2010, a year-on-year decline of 29.1 percent. The shortfall was, in part, a result of the probe. 

However, the company moved quickly to adjust its marketing strategies and product types to maintain growth in 2011. According to its report, China Zhongwang had realized revenue of 6.63 billion yuan by the end of the third quarter last year, an increase of 52 percent over the same period in 2010. 

In the coming years, the company will concentrate on the domestic market, which will be supplemented by overseas sales, and will increase its efforts to develop high-value-added products, said Lu Changqing, executive deputy-president. 

He said flat-rolled aluminum products will be the new growth area for the company. 

China Zhongwang will spend $3.8 billion to buy equipment to manufacture flat-rolled products. Commercial production is expected to start in 2014, with an annual production capacity of 1.8 million tons. The company said the location of the production line has already been decided, but didn't disclose further details. 

A recent report from Boston Consulting Group said that global consumption of flat-rolled aluminum products will increase from 15.6 million tons in 2009 to 28 million tons in 2020. China, as the world's fastest-growing market for flat-rolled products, will consume 14 million tons of the material in 2020, accounting for as much as half of global consumption.The country used 5.9 million tons in 2009, according to the report. 

Flat-rolled aluminum products are mainly used in the manufacture of automobiles and cans. Cheung said China depends largely on imports, with approximately 600,000 tons imported every year, and domestic producers mainly provide low-end products. 

"So, Zhongwang will explore this market, and try to replace imports," he said. "In addition to lower prices, we also have other advantages such as advanced equipment and a large customer base in the auto and transport areas compared with foreign producers." 

Aluminum Corp of China Ltd, the nation's biggest aluminum producer by volume, is currently the largest manufacturer of flat-rolled aluminum products. Only about five companies in China have a production capacity of more than 100,000 tons, but that is unable to supply the growing domestic demand, especially for high-end products. 

The huge investment required is the main obstacle for manufacturers of flat-rolled products, but Zhongwang said it doesn't have any plans to raise funds through equity sales. 

Report by SHMET

Netizens down on KFC's denial of 'handsome deliveryman' service

Date Feb 07 2012 14:46:50 Source:SHMET
Feb.07,2012(SHMET)--BEIJING - Branches of KFC in China denied the so-called "handsome delivery boy service" widely discussed on the Internet, disappointing web surfers speculating that the fast food chain could despatch good-looking men to deliver food upon request.

Netizens down on KFC's denial of 'handsome deliveryman' service

A Weibo user posts her photo with a KFC delivery boy, and her requirments for the delivery service as shown on the receipts. [Source: Internet]

On Friday, KFC used Sina Weibo, a popular Twitter-like microblog site, to deny that customers can designate handsome boys to deliver food for them, stating that KFC only runs a "normal delivery service," and calling on customers to be kind to the hard-working delivery staff.

The KFC always serves its customers in strict accordance with consistent service process and standard in food delivery, says an email from the publicity department of the Shanghai-based headquarter of KFC China, while expressing thanks to customers for their support and concern for KFC's delivery business.

The announcement disappointed many bloggers. "Lemonuo," for example, wrote, "The limited supply of this service has finished? But I haven't had chance to try it yet!"

"I am a little sad. I had planned to ask a smart guy with glasses to deliver food," the blogger Ariel wrote in the comments column of this statement.

The buzz about the so-called "handsome delivery boy service" first stemmed from a blog posted by "bosnia_woshikaogong" on Sina Weibo on February 1, in which she recounted her recent experience with a good-looking KFC deliveryman.

She ordered food on KFC official site and wrote down that she wanted a handsome man to deliver food to her, she wrote in the post.

She posted that, later, a "rangy handsome delivery boy with big eyes and white skin" had delivered her order. Furthermore, the blogger, who included a picture of her receipt on which her requirement of a handsome delivery boy printed, claimed that the branch called her 10 minutes after his arrival, "confirming 'is the delivery boy pretty, heh?'"

"The boy covered his face with his hands because of shyness and then stammered, 'Am... I... satisfying?'," the blogger, who wished not to reveal her real name, said "I laughed so much I nearly died. I was only making a joke with KFC."

The microblog entry has been forwarded more than 41,000 times since it was posted on February 1, and it has picked up nearly 5,000 comments, most of which described KFC's act as "interesting" and "lovable."

People followed "bosnia_woshikaogong" to raise various requirements concerning delivery boys' appearance: "handsome and plain-looking," "smart with a height above 180cm," "a pretty boy with slender eyelashes"... .

Many have taken photos with their delivery boys and posted them online, accompanied by snaps of their receipts, to prove their demands were met.

Some have speculated that the act is actually a disguised marketing campaign by KFC.

Luo Min, who works in an Internet company, said she doesn't really like fast food, but is amused by the "cute service" and would choose KFC when ordering food for delivery, irrespective of the deliveryman's appearance.

"Chinese need a company with human interest. It's good for the customers and for the KFC to increase the turnover, which will also increase the deliverymens' salary, why not add this service? " blogger Yanie wrote on Sina Weibo.

Report by SHMET

China Unicom asked to apply for online maps license

Date Feb 07 2012 14:45:59 Source:SHMET

BEIJING - China Unicom, the country's second largest mobile operator, has been asked to apply for a license for its Internet maps service, which is being operated without official approval, the mapping service regulator said Monday.

The company will be further dealt with in accordance with laws if it fails to submit the application by February 29 but will continue the mapping service, according to a statement Xinhua received from the National Administration of Surveying, Mapping and Geoinformation.

China Unicom has agreed to submit the license application before the deadline, according to the administration, who recently summoned China Unicom and other organizations for talks over their unauthorized mapping services.

The administration said those who continued to provide maps without a permit will be penalized.

As of January 31, a total of 279 firms or organizations have been granted licenses for offering online mapping services in China, the administration said, adding that it has almost achieved the goal of ensuring that all existing service providers operate with permits.

Report by SHMET