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Tech firms cry foul in Taiwain

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• A local, slice-of-life story from a Monitor correspondent.

A lawsuit by a little-known Taiwanese high-tech firm against Apple has joined the list of uphill legal cases against Silicon Valley.

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Working on computer hardware contracts for 30 years, Apple’s onetime partner Proview International Holdings alleges “fraudulent actions” by the computer giant to acquire iPad trademarks. But Proview’s would be just one case. High-tech firms in Taiwan say they developed numerous firsts that became market successes only after being rebranded in the United States, Japan, or South Korea. Proview’s claim joins that of Taiwan-based Elan Microelectronics, which sued Apple in 2009 over patents for the touchpad.

In addition, several Taiwanese firms claim to have come up with the “all-in-one” compact desktop computer in 2007 only to find it sold later by Apple and Lenovo, says Helen Chiang of market research firm IDC in Taipei.

Taiwan lags behind overseas peers because its tech firms, facing slimmer profits from contracts, only started branding their own PCs within the past five to 10 years, the Taiwanese government and private analysts say.

“The problem isn’t with product functions or technology,” says Hanson Tseng, strategic marketing executive director with the Taiwan External Trade Development Council. “It’s about whether the brand can be advanced.”