Stick with us on this one — it seems unlikely, but this case could have some wider consequences.

Last year, Apple filed a lawsuit against a company named Proview Technology Shenzen in China. It was pretty common by Apple’s standards: The company was using the name iPad, and Apple was trying to keep them from doing so.

While this was all going on, Proview Taiwan (only loosely affiliated with the Shenzen division) sold the trademark to “iPad” in China to a UK-based company named Application Development, which then sold it right back to Apple.

All of this would normally be fine and dandy except for one thing: Apple lost the original lawsuit that was supposed to prevent Proview Shenzen from using the name.

As a result, Proview Shenzen is arguing that it still retains the rights to the “iPad” name on the Chinese mainland, and Apple may be fined as much as 2.4 billion yuan ($380 million US). Obviously, this is a tangled legal issue, and I’m sure Apple still has options in the fight before they need to cough up the fine. But there’s obviously something here that needs to be worked out, and if it isn’t in time, Apple could be prohibited from selling or marketing its tablet under the name “iPad” in China.

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