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Apple now sued by Chinese chemical company over Snow Leopard trademark

Given Apple's newly established role as one the most important foreign companies operating in China, the company's recent trademark dispute with Proview was watched very closely by the local business community. Now it appears that news of the £38 million settlement paid by Apple to Proview over the iPad name may have inspired other Chinese entities to jump on the litigation bandwagon.

According to a report by Chinese news service DSQQ discovered by M.I.C. Gadget, a Shanghai-based chemical company that goes by the name Snow Leopard Household Chemical Co. Ltd. has filed a lawsuit against Apple over the right to use the name in China. Apple's 2009 release of its Mac OS X 10.6 operating system was called Snow Leopard. Its upcoming operating system, Mac OS X 10.7, is named Mountain Lion.

The report says the company registered its name Xuebao, the Chinese translation of snow leopard, back in 2000. A quick check of the company's website shows that the company uses the Xuebao Chinese characters as well as the English words "snow leopard" to identify itself. A Shanghai court has already accepted the legal filing and an official hearing is scheduled to take place on 10 July.

Although the lawsuit comes right on the heels of a major, high-profile payout to another Chinese company, Xuebao doesn't appear to have similarly grand aspirations as it is only seeking 500,000 Chinese yuan, about £50,000, in damages, as well as a formal apology from Apple. Xuebao's CEO also claims that Apple attempted to register the Xuebao trademark back in 2008. Nevertheless, the report also cites a Chinese legal expert who claims the lawsuit is unlikely to succeed because Apple did not use the word Xuebao to sell its product in China.