Tim Cook Dons the Chainmail to Face Labor Activists and Trademark Squatters

By Jack Grauer March 29, 2012

Foxconn, a Taiwan-based manufacturer of Apple products, has fallen into a mess of criticism and dragged Apple with it. Proview is a small company that has been driving a thorn into Apple's side over some trademark issues. Apple executive Tim Cook will need to think hard and act incisively if they want to continue trade relations China.

The Independent logs the nasty reports against the company's labor conditions: As many as 137 instances of employee poisoning from exposure to n-hexane, which is a screen-cleaning solution that proved unfriendly to the human nervous system, four deaths and 18 injuries inflicted during a dust-explosion at a Foxconn factory, and reports of employees stuffed like clown-cars, with as many as 20 occupants to a unit built for three. Luckily for Apple, Mike Daisey, among the most froth-mouthed of the Foxconn decriers, recently rescinded some of his allegations.

Apple responded (kind of) by producing a monthly labor audit report. Don't think for a minute that they skimp on PR department. These folks bring some impressively poetic euphemism. Apple's release on labor practices outline two “core violations”: “Indentured Migrant Labor” and “Hiring of Underage Workers”. “Excessive Work Hours” do not officially count as a core violation but the saintly philanthropists agreed to audit this aspect of production as well.

Meanwhile, Proview Technology, a Shenzen-based company, claims that it has owned the rights in China for the iPad since 2000. The LA Times calls this legal strategy “trademark squatting”, and it is fairly common practice among Chinese businesses. Pfizer suffered some frustration over some similar issues. Proview lawyers aim to shut down the import and export of iPads across Chinese borders, and they are demanding over $1.6 million to settle. The outcome of the case stands to potentially make a sizeable impact on iPad sales in the region.

Regardless of your stance on Cook and the Apple company at large, imagine him staring at the ceiling of Beijing hotel room and wondering what he got himself into when he took over the company in 2011. It’s difficult not to laugh a little.

Edited by Jennifer Russell

TechZone360 Contributing Writer

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