Chinese news reports say Proview is deeply in debt, increasing the pressure for it to demand a substantial payout from Apple. Proview International, meanwhile, has been suspended from trading on the Hong Kong stock market since August 2010 and will be removed in June if it cannot show it has sufficient assets, business operations and working capital.

In a rapid-fire series of moves, Proview has filed a trademark-violation lawsuit that goes to court Wednesday in Shanghai.

That deadline is likely to prompt Apple to agree to a settlement within a few days to avoid the uncertainty of a court fight, said Kenny Wong, an intellectual property lawyer for the firm Mayer Brown JSM in Hong Kong.

"I think Apple will be under immense pressure to have this settled as soon as possible," he said. "Obviously, it depends on the amount the Shenzhen company is asking."

An Apple spokeswoman in Beijing, Carolyn Wu, declined to comment.

Apple ran into a similar issue before it launched the iPhone in 2007.

Cisco Systems Inc., the maker of networking hardware, had owned the trademark since 2000 and used it for a line of Internet-connected desk phones. Cisco sued, the companies reached an undisclosed settlement and the phone launch went off as planned.

China is Apple's fastest-growing market and the company already has bigger sales here than any other market except the United States. In the year that ended in September, sales totaled $12.5 billion in China and Hong Kong, nearly 12 percent of revenue.

"We've been very, very focused on China," CEO Tim Cook told investors this week at a conference in San Francisco.

The dispute comes amid complaints Beijing is failing to do enough to stamp out rampant unlicensed Chinese copying and exports of goods ranging from music and Hollywood movies to designer clothing to pharmaceuticals.

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