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In this Feb. 16, 2012 file photo, workers walk on a footbridge outside the Proview Technology office building in Shenzhen, in southern China's Guangdong province. Proview’s fortunes may currently be the polar opposite of Apple – one has creditors at the door and the other is the world’s most valuable listed company – but both illustrate how the fickle world of technology can make or break a company.

Proview Technology (Shenzhen), which is battling Apple Inc. in a Chinese court over the iPad trademark, is the rightful owner of that mark, a senior official with the State Administration for Industry and Commerce (SAIC) said on Tuesday.

"According to the ... provisions of the China Trademark Law, currently Shenzhen Proview is the legal registrant of the iPad trademark," Fu Shuangjian, a deputy director of SAIC, was quoted as saying at a news conference in Beijing.

Mr. Fu's remarks were the first public comments from a government official on the matter, and may signal how the court could rule.

"This case has a huge impact and the final court ruling would directly influence who owns the iPad trademark. The commerce department will (take the matter) very seriously," said Mr. Fu, whose department governs market regulation and supervision.

The transcript of his comments was posted on an official news website.

Apple could not immediately be reached for comment.

The long-running saga over who owns the iPad trademark in China, pits the world's most valuable technology company against the Shenzhen unit of Hong Kong-listed Proview International Holdings Ltd.

The tussle culminated in a February hearing at the Higher People's Court in Guangzhou. The court has not issued a ruling.

Proview's lawyer told Reuters on Monday that the firm is still negotiating with Apple's lawyers but talks have not led to a decision. Proview has said it favours an out-of-court settlement, which usually involves the payment of compensation, which analysts have said the company needs to repay its creditors.

Apple's trademark woes in China are one of the problems plaguing the technology giant in the country. Apple recently agreed to work with its key supplier, Foxconn Technology Group, to ensure better working conditions for Foxconn's workers.