Secrecy in trademark deals is common, but is outright deception going too far?

As the trademark faceoff between Apple and Proview Technologies reaches even greater heights (or lows, depending on your point of view), the question of secrecy in Apple’s approach to negotiating the acquisition of the iPad trademark is coming to a head.

Trademark experts revealed that Proview “has a reasonable claim” against Apple. At issue is “the strange ways Apple concealed its identity when the company negotiated with Proview to obtain the iPad trademark. Apple's acquisition was done through an "opaque special purpose entity," Proview has said in court filings. In a lawsuit brought against Apple last week in California, Proview alleged that Apple acted "with oppression, fraud and/or malice" in using the U.K.-based IP Application Development, Ltd, or "IPAD," to buy the naming rights from a Taiwanese affiliate in 2009 for $55,000.

"I have never encountered this level of ruse," New York-based trademark attorney Martin Schwimmer told of Apple's approach. Though some experts in the high-tech field say such a level of secrecy is common surrounding new product launches, the whole incident stands as a warning to chief intellectual property officers that deception may indeed be harmful.

“It is unclear if Proview’s latest legal maneuver is driven by the expectation of a favorable ruling by the Chinese Guangdong High Court or by its desire to push Apple for an out-of-court settlement — an option Proview’s lawyers have said would be possible,” reports.

“Apple has given no sign it would be willing to settle. It contends Proview failed to transfer ownership of the mainland Chinese iPad trademark as agreed in the 2009 deal,” the Post continued.